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Pakistan 9 November 2006

Detention, violence and harassment of journalists in madrassa attack probe

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest of five journalists in the tribal areas while covering the aftermath of the missile attack on the religious school in Bajaur in which 83 people died. Masood Khan, Anwar Hakim, Haseen Ahmed, Zafarullah and Moammad Ibrahim were interrogated by an officer. Several reporters including the correspondent for a privately-owned TV channel, Nowsherwan Qalandar, were beaten by para-militaries.

The violence incidents occurred as a group of Pakistani lawyers and journalists were investigating the attack on the Islamic school, in the villages of Shangai and Bajaur.


Journalists barred from entered Bajaur district to cover controversial air strike

Reporters Without Borders today criticised the Pakistani army for barring journalists from entering the district of Bajaur, in the Tribal Areas north of Peshawar, where about 80 people were reportedly killed in an army air strike yesterday on a madrassa run by a pro-Taliban cleric.

The area is now effectively closed to the press and, under pressure from local authorities only journalists from the Tribal Areas are tolerated.

“It is regrettable that the press has again been banned from covering a controversial military operation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This lack of transparency is arousing suspicion about the facts of this air strike, which is threatening the fragile peace in the Tribal Areas. We are reminded of the government’s continuing refusal to shed light on the kidnapping and murder of reporter Hayatullah Khan after he investigated an air strike in the area.”

Two Peshawar-based journalists, Haroon Rashid of the BBC World Service’s Urdu-language service, and Mehmood Jan Babar of the Pakistan’s AVT Khyber TV, were denied access to Bajaur yesterday. Soldiers are checking each vehicle entering the area and have been given strict orders not to let any journalist go to Khar, the capital of Bajaur, or to the site of the air strike. “You are not welcome... We have orders to turn back all journalists,” the two reporters were told. A third Peshawar-based journalist was denied access to the district.

Earlier this year, the authorities arrested journalists heading to Khar with the aim of covering an air strike on the village of Damadola that reportedly left 13 dead.

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