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Security fears increase for media in Pakistan, two foreign journalists wounded in shooting

Narrow escape: An injured journalist Sami Yousafzai leaves treatment at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan on Friday, November 14, 2008. Yousafzai,accompanied by Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura, unseen, is wounded in an apparent abduction attempt while visiting Peshawar.Photo: Associated Press (AP)

Two journalists were shot and wounded on Friday in Peshawar. The city is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, which adjoins Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas and has been the scene of a number of attacks on foreigners and government officials in the last few weeks.

From his hospital bed in Peshawar, Sami Yousafzai, Newsweek magazine's special correspondent in the region and a CBS News stringer, told reporters that he was shot three times. News reports varied about whether Asahi Shimbun Islamabad Bureau Chief Yatsukura Motoki was hit once or twice. Both men are in stable condition, and Yatsukura has been moved to a hospital in Islamabad. Their driver, whose name was not immediately available, was also shot.

"The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has long been unstable, but its violence has been steadily spreading into other areas of Pakistan," said Bob Dietz, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia programme coordinator. "Journalists in the region have long warned about the lack of security and the threats they face from all sides—Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, drug lords, gun runners, criminal gangs, and even the Pakistani government. For journalists, as for all others in Peshawar, this is a situation going from bad to worse."

News reports vary about the details of Friday's shooting, with conflicting stories of a pursuit by the assailants or an ambush. The attack took place in what was only months ago considered the relatively safe Hayatabad Ring Road area on the outskirts of Peshawar, on the way to the Khyber Agency area. Yousafzai and Motoki were returning from interviewing a Taliban commander in Khyber, according to Peshawar journalists. It is unclear whether Yousafzai and Motoki were attacked for their work as journalists or were the targets of a criminal gang seeking ransom.

Friday's attack is the third in as many days on foreigners in Peshawar. Gunmen kidnapped Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, the commercial attache of the Iranian consulate in Peshawar and killed his local guard after a shootout Thursday. American aid worker Stephen Vance was shot dead Wednesday. And on Tuesday, Khadija Abdul Qahaar, a Canadian freelance journalist and publisher of the website Jihad Unspun was abducted while traveling in the region's Bannu district. It is still not clear who the attackers were in any of the cases.

Meanwhile, Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) expressed outrage at the murder of Royal TV reporter Abdul Razzak Johra in Mianwali district, in the Punjab province, on November 3 after he did a report on drug trafficking.

“Johra’s murder and today’s double abduction attempt show how worrying the situation has become for journalists,” RSF 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 RSF, 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 RSF 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.

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

Date posted: November 15, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 332