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-  Area : 796,100
-  Population : 157,935,000.
-  Languages : English and Urdu (off.).
-  Head of state : President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan - Annual report 2006

President Pervez Musharraf alternately directed his ire on the media challenging his alliance with the United States and the investigative press that exposes corruption and abuse of power. The work of journalists in the tribal zones and Kashmir remains as dangerous as ever.

In May 2005, parliament adopted contradictory amendments to the law on electronic media. They liberalised the sector, but gave the authorities the right to seize equipment, withdraw licences, initiate investigations and to make arrests without a warrant. Any infringement of the law could mean up to three years in prison. In November police applied the law, closing Mast FM 103 radio for relaying a special programme on the earthquake from the Urdu service of the BBC World Service.

Although badly shaken by Jihadist terrorism, Pakistan has a dynamic and pluralist press. The English-language publications are freer of control than the popular Urdu newspapers. But investigative journalists are constantly targeted by military security services, which have no hesitation in harassing anyone they find troublesome. This was the case with Rashid Channa, a journalist with the daily Star, kidnapped for several hours in Karachi.

On the other hand, a special court in Quetta dropped charges in March against journalist Khawar Mehdi whom the army had held secretly and tortured for several weeks for having accompanied two French reporters to the Afghan border in 2003. Gen. Musharraf accused the journalist, who was forced into exile, of having betrayed his country for a few dollars.

Two correspondents for the foreign press were killed in the tribal zones and the murder investigation has gone nowhere. Journalists must deal both with threats from the Taliban and the surveillance and the obstruction of the military. In December, a correspondent for two national dailies was abducted in mysterious circumstances in Waziristan, after he contradicted the official version of the death of an al-Qaeda leader.

The local press operates with difficulty in Kashmir, which was shaken by a major earthquake on 8 October 2005. After largely facilitating access for hundreds of Pakistani and foreign journalists, the army in December imposed restrictions on the movement of reporters and a BBC team was sent back from a remote region.

More generally, the authorities take a dim view of investigations by foreign journalists. In August, three film-makers, two Swedes and one Briton of Afghan origin, were held for two weeks for filming near a military base. Despite a thaw in relations with India, a journalist from New Delhi was expelled in July.

Confronted by a radical press that fosters jihadism, the authorities launched a major operation in Karachi in July to shut down hate media. But searches and arrests also affected less radical journalists.

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Annual report 2006 Urdu

Introduction Asia - Annual Report 2006
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