Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today voiced its concern about a bomb attack against the home of a journalist in the South Waziristan tribal area of northwestern Pakistan and the harassment of another journalist’s family by military authorities in the adjoining North Waziristan tribal area. Both incidents appear to have been prompted by reports in the national press.
The organisation called on federal interior minister Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat to ensure that the two incidents are thoroughly investigated as they threaten the freedom and safety of journalists in the tribal areas, where the press has to work in difficult conditions because of frequent harassment by local dignitaries and authorities.
The bomb attack, on 4 April 2003, took place outside the home of Awardeen Mehsood, correspondent of the Urdu-language national daily Khabrian and the news agency NNI, in Laddah, the main town of South Waziristan Agency. The explosion damaged the door of his home. It was not claimed by any organisation but it was thought to be linked to his reports about the activities of the Youth Movement, which is pressing for a change in the status of the Tribal Areas. The federal authorities have promised to liberalize the laws governing this region, which borders Afghanistan, but the civilian administrator still has significant coercive powers.
Mehsood, who is also one of the leaders of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ), was sentenced last year to pay an excessive fine of 5,000 euros for allegedly libelling the region’s civilian administration.
The other incident concerned Hayatullah Khan, the correspondent of the national Urdu-language daily Ausaf in Mir Ali in North Waziristan Agency. His family has been harassed by military officials since 3 April 2003 as a result a report about misuse of army vehicles in Mir Ali. Khan’s brothers and daughter have been expelled from their army-run school. The officer in charge of the school has also threatened Khan.