Pakistan Taliban: "All reporters of Voice of America are our targets and should resign."

Posted: 21 Jan 2012   Print   Send a link
Voice of America press release, 20 Jan 2012: "Friends and colleagues of slain VOA reporter Mukarram Khan Aatif paid tribute Friday to a 'courageous man' who refused to be intimidated by the Pakistani militants who took responsibility for his murder. VOA Director David Ensor noted that Mr. Aatif, 'had been threatened many times, but he refused to stop doing what he believed in.' Mr. Aatif, who also worked for local Pakistani television, was buried on Wednesday amid an outpouring of grief and frustration by other journalists in Pakistan, who urged the government to fully investigate his murder. ... Ensor said, 'Deewa remains committed to bringing fair and unbiased news to the people of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.'"

New York Times, 18 Jan 2012, Declan Walsh: "The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the killing of a reporter for the Voice of America, a radio service financed by the United States government, and warned that others would be targets in the future. ... Mukurram Khurasani, an aide to the Taliban commander in Mohmand, the tribal area near the attack, said his group was responsible for the killing. 'All reporters of Voice of America are our targets and should resign; otherwise we will kill them,' he told a local reporter in a telephone interview. The killing underscored Pakistan’s reputation as the world’s most dangerous beat for reporters, and it raised fresh questions about the future of American-financed journalism in the region."

The Daily Beast, 18 Jan 2012, Ron Moreau, Newsweek’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent: "[A] journalist in his late 20s who reports for an American media outlet in the tribal agency of North Waziristan and who chooses to remain anonymous for security reasons ... says half of the death threats he has received have come from the militants and half from the military’s intelligence agencies. 'I’m going out to report another story today, but I’m more discouraged now after Atif’s death,' he says. 'We are reading and weighing each word many times before we publish because we don’t want to get killed.' The journalist who wishes to remain anonymous says he is still haunted by a video made by the Pakistani Taliban’s nominal leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in February 2010. In it the 30-something Mehsud directly threatened journalists working for the VOA and [RFE/RL]. He remembers Mehsud saying: 'You are doing propaganda against us. We will not spare your lives.' According to wire-service reports, Pakistani intelligence officers in the tribal area, citing militants’ radio chatter, say there is a strong likelihood that Mehsud may have been killed in an American drone attack this past Jan. 12. The Pakistani Taliban denies the reports."

Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 Jan 2012, Shumaila Jaffery, Dunya TV assignment editor: Mukarram Khan Aatif "had been 'watched' for some time. After receiving threats last year, he moved out of his ancestral village in Mohmand and shifted to Shabqadar, a town near Peshawar. The decision was very difficult for him, but he chose to speak the truth and he was ready to pay the price. The worst was yet to come. Mukarram also worked for Radio Deewa, the Pashto service of the Voice of America. He had been getting warnings: He was blamed for doing 'one-sided' stories, faulted for disclosing 'wrong' information. But like many other brave journalists from KPK and FATA, he was not ready to give up his right of freedom of expression."

Express Tribine, 20 Jan 2012, Manzoor Ali: "A protest was staged by journalists in Peshawar on Thursday to condemn the killing of a colleague from Mohmand Agency. The protestors also demanded the Taliban to explain their position over the killing of Mukkaram Khan and other journalists. The Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) observed the protest on the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) at the Peshawar Press Club (PPC). A large number of tribal reporters also attended the demonstration. They vowed to defeat attempts to gag the media from telling the truth. PPC President Saiful Islami Saifi said that Mukkaram was not a controversial reporter; rather, he tried to present a balanced view of the situation. 'Mukkaram was balanced and objective in his reporting; however, because he was working for the Voice of America (VOA) Pashto Radio, he was murdered and the Taliban took responsibility for it,' he told the protest gathering."

Express Tribune, 19 Jan 2012, editorial: "It is hard to understand how the militant mind operates, but easy to see the tragedy that has befallen another family because extremists in our country remain able to act without any check on their activities, engaging in games of murder as and when they please."

Dawn, 19 Jan 2012, editorial: "The active targeting of newsmen by the Taliban will not only have repercussions for the safety of journalists reporting on militancy. It will also mean that large parts of the northwest could well become a news blackout zone, with serious consequences particularly in the context of abuses that may never come to light."

News Pakistan, 20 Jan 2012, Faisal Farooq: "The dynamic targeting of journalists by the Taliban will not only have repercussions for the safety of media professionals working in war zones. With serious results particularly in terms of abuses that may never come to light, the northwest region could become new black out zone in coming days.

Global Chaos blog, 20 Jan 2012, Yelena Osipova: "This brings up a whole range of issues that should be discussed pertaining to this situation. I don't even know where to begin: America's misguided public diplomacy in one of the most critical parts of the world, complete disregard for the sensitivities of those affected, the totally oblivious American public which doesn't even get the opportunity to hear about these brave men (yes, mostly) who risk and lose their lives for what are essentially American interests... . I would suggest looking at it from the local perspective, to do which I reached out to a former reporter from Pakistan I happen to know. You can read the full interview here."

CathNews India, 19 Jan 2012: "The Catholic communication desk in Rawalpindi diocese has reworked its editorial police in the wake of the killing of Aatif and others throughout the country. 'We have stopped publishing political articles or analysis on the prevalent situation and are being more cautious,' said Banaras Khan, editor of the monthly diocese publication Shaloom. 'Our focus is more on spreading gospel values and promoting harmony.' ... Capuchin Father Morris Jalal, executive director of Pakistan’s only Catholic television service, said authorities have also 'indirectly' stopped the transmission of Christian persecution news on several occasions. 'Our service remained suspended for three days for coverage of assassinated minority affairs minister last year. Cable operators refused to broadcast such programs for fear of closure,' he said."

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