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Homes of two journalists attacked in Pakistan's restive North-West Frontier Province

Homes of two journalists attacked in Pakistan's restive North-West Frontier Province
Pakistani secuirty forces officers walk over debris of houses in Sultanwas, Buner, Pakistan on Thursday, July 9. 2009. Sultanwas, a stronghold of Taliban militants is destroyed during fierce fight between Pakistani security forces and Taliban militants. Pakistan will allow some 2 million people who fled an army offensive against the Taliban in Swat Valley to return home next week, the prime minister announced Thursday, saying the region was now secure and essential services restored.

The house of a second Pakistani journalist working in the border area with Afghanistan was looted and burned on Saturday, according to the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ). The attack was similar to one carried out by Taliban militants on Thursday last in the same district, which has been an area of conflict since the government launched an offensive in April.

According to the KhUJ and the English-language daily the News, the home of Behroz Khan, in Balo Khan village in Buner in the North West Frontier Province, had been looted and ransacked a few times in recent months before it was burned over the weekend. Khan is a senior journalist who works for Geo TV and has assisted CPJ investigations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the past.

"The targetting of homes and families of journalists who dare to report professionally is a frightening trend that must be stopped," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia programme coordinator. "All sides in the conflict in Pakistan must respect the role of journalists in covering the news."

At a joint press conference on Monday, Khyber Union of Journalists president Mohammad Riaz and Peshawar Press Club president Shamim Shahid urged the government to protect journalists from Taliban attacks. “The authorities must take measure to protect journalists, so that they can have confidence in the Pakistani government again, Riaz said.

Riaz said a delegation of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) met officials of the Federal Government in June to raise their concerns about security for media in the area, and a tribal commission has since been set up by the Government to assess damages to the homes of media personnel in FATA. TUJ has urged the government to pay compensation to those whose homes or property have been damaged as a result of the war.

The News reported that Khan had left the area before the most recent attack and CPJ has not been able to contact him. The paper said Buner's district coordination officer and district police officer were not available to comment.

A bomb destroyed the home of Voice of America correspondent Rehman Buneri in Buner district on Thursday last in what was believed to be a retaliatory attack by the Taliban. The gunmen told Buneri’s father: “We have orders to blow up the house because of your son’s criticism of the Taliban.” Based in Karachi, Buneri works for Voice of America’s Pashto-language Deeva Radio. He is also privately-owned Khyber TV’s Karachi bureau chief.

“This Taliban attack was cowardly and unacceptable,” Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “We urge Taliban fighters to stop taking reprisals against journalists, who are often the victims of physical attacks and intimidation. We also ask the Pakistani government to guarantee the safety of journalists by reaffirming its military presence in the region.”

“My father said the Taliban arrived at about 2 a.m.,” Buneri told RSF. “They began by reading out loud the charges against me. Then they evacuated all of the members of my family and put explosives around the house.” He added that he had previously received threatening phone calls from an unknown number.

The village of Poland is just 15 km from an army-controlled area. The incident took place just a few hours before the government announced that the Taliban had been ousted from the Buner valley and the nearby Swat valley and that the displaced population could begin returning on July 13.

The government said on Wednesday that it was winding down its military operations against Taliban militants in Buner and the adjoining Swat Valley. The offensive, launched in April, has killed about 1,600 combatants, according to the government.

Date posted: July 15, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 204