CJA deplores threats to journalists’ safety in Swat valley

April 6th, 2009 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Toronto, April 6 (IANS) The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) has asked Pakistan’s national and provincial governments to ensure safety of journalists working under grim conditions in its Swat valley and other areas overrun by the Taliban.
A statement issued by its international membership deplores the escalating threats to the safety of journalists working in the brutal environment of the militant-controlled area near the town of Matta in the Swat valley region of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

CJA’s international president Hassan Shahriar, who belongs to Bangladesh, has cited “a long and disturbing report” by Reporters Without Borders on April 2 to underscore the dangers before the media in these areas.

The report outlines in graphic detail the growing use of violence to instill “a climate of fear and self-censorship that has turned the Swat valley into one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists”.

With the imposition of a virulent version of Sharia (Islamic law) in the region in February as a concession to stop tribal fighting in the region, press freedom is now under siege by the Taliban.

They appear to be using enforcement of the Sharia to stifle the right to free speech, the CJA said.

Reporters Without Borders said: “The fear imposed by the Taliban, including Maulana (religious leader) Qazi Fazlullah and his illegal radio broadcasts, is directly affecting free expression. The terror has increased the tendency of journalists to censor themselves. Women’s rights and abuses committed by Maulana Fazlullah’s followers are being covered less and less by the local press.”

The CJA has appealed to the Pakistani authorities and to the Taliban to guarantee the safety of journalists in tribal areas and to allow freedom of expression to flourish.

“We demand that Pakistani government take steps to provide security for journalists and allow them to carry out their duties without fear of harm and intimidation,” said Shahriar.

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