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Pakistan 29 April 2009

Taliban threaten press with “terrible consequences” in Swat valley

Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried by the threats being made against the media by Taliban fighters in the Swat valley. Leaflets (attached) were posted today outside the offices of news media in the Swat valley city of Mingora threatening “terrible consequences” for those that do not stop their “anti-Taliban coverage.” The leaflets were signed by suicide candidates "fidayeen" of Swat’s Tehreek-e-Taliban.

Several journalists including Ghulam Farooq, the editor of the local newspaper Shamal, told Reporters Without Borders that Swat’s media community was taking the threats very seriously. “We will soon have no other option but to close our offices and leave the district,” Farooq said.

“These Taliban threats are unacceptable and seriously endanger the safety of the journalists working courageously in the Swat valley,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We appeal to Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the historic leader of the Movement for the Enforcement of the Prophet Muhammad’s Sharia (TNSM), who told recently Reporters Without Borders he believed in press freedom, to guarantee the safety of journalists and to put a stop to these threats.”

In a report on its recent fact-finding visit to the Swat valley, Reporters Without Borders deplored the fact that application of the Sharia was being used by Taliban groups as grounds for restricting freedom of expression even more. Read the report.

Written in Urdu, the Taliban leaflet said: “All the editors of wire services, private and official news agencies and journalists and columnists are informed that the way you present news and report events give us the impression that you are now pursuing a pro-west policy, under greed or pressure, saying the Taliban are sabotaging the peace and enforcement of the Islamic system”

The leaflet added: “The media help the west to focus on us. Stop doing this ... and if you do not desist from doing this we will take you before Islamic courts and you will be held responsible for this conspiracy ... and will be responsible for terrible consequences.”

The threats have come at time when several media have criticised the behaviour of the Taliban, who have violated an accord reached with the government by continuing their attacks in the Swat valley and neighbouring districts.

In this country
26 May - Pakistan
Video on plight of Swat valley journalists
26 May - Pakistan
Joint open letter from the IFJ and RSF to the President regarding threats made against journalists
15 May - Pakistan
Emergency funds for journalists who have had to flee Swat valley fighting
12 May - Pakistan
Journalists flee Swat valley en masse
6 May - Pakistan
Media in danger in Swat valley

in the annual report
Pakistan - Annual report 2007
Pakistan - Annual report 2006

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Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

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