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Pakistan 14 November 2008

Security fears increase for media, with a TV reporter murdered and two foreign journalists injured in kidnap attempt

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the murder of Royal TV reporter Abdul Razzak Johra in Mianwali district, in the Punjab province, on 3 November after he did a report on drug trafficking. The organisation also condemns the attempted abduction of two foreign reporters today near Peshawar.

“Johra’s murder and today’s double abduction attempt show how worrying the situation has become for journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This escalating violence must be stopped as it seriously undermines press freedom by discouraging journalists from working freely. We urge the authorities to intervene and bring those responsible to justice, and not let impunity take hold in Pakistan.”

According to a Reporters Without Borders tally, Johra is the eighth journalist to be killed this year in Pakistan. Aged 45, he was dragged from his home in Mianwali district by six masked and was shot six times.

Local drug traffickers are suspected of organising his murder. The local police said they arrested several suspects, although five other suspects remain at large.

Royal TV journalist Afzal Butt told Reporters Without Borders that Johra’s report on drug trafficking was broadcast a day before his murder. Johra had previously worked on several cases involving drug trafficking in his region and had already received threats on several occasions.

Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai of the US magazine Newsweek and Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura, the Pakistan correspondent of the Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun daily, narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt today in Hayatabad, near the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Both were injured by shots fired by their would-be abductors, who were probably Afghan. They also tried to kidnap Yotsukura’s Pakistani interpreter, who was in a separate vehicle.

The police said the abduction attempt was carried out by three men in a car who followed the journalists and opened fire on them. Yousafzai is currently receiving treatment in a Peshawar hospital for injuries to a hand and a shoulder. Yotsukura sustained a bullet wound to the knee. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said they were intercepted while heading to the Khyber tribal region to interview members of an armed group.

Yousafzai was held incommunicado by Pakistani intelligence officials for more than a month in 2004 after accompanying an American journalist to the Tribal Areas.

In response to a call from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation, journalists demonstrated today throughout Pakistan in protest against the latest killings of their colleagues and to press the authorities to go after those responsible.

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