His Excellency Asif Ali Zardari
President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
24 February 2009
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our grave concern at the murder of journalist Musa Khankhel, an attack on editor and WEF Board member Imtiaz Alam, and the general escalation in violence against journalists.
According to reports, on 18 February Mr Khankhel, correspondent for Geo TV and The News daily, was found dead in a militant-controlled area near the town of Matta in the Swat valley region of North-West Frontier Province. He had been shot in the back of the head. Mr Khankhel had been separated from his reporting team while covering a peace march led by cleric Sufi Muhammad, the father-in-law of local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. No motive has been established.
In a separate incident in Lahore, four men with batons attacked the car of Imtiaz Alam, the secretary general of South Asian Free Media Association, as he was returning home to the Doctor's Colony area of the city. Mr Alam was injured in the arm by shattered glass. He received a threatening phone call shortly after the incident warning him of 'dire consequences' if he reported the attack.
Other recent attacks on the press include the kidnapping of Royal TV Peshawar bureau chief Noorul Hasan in the Swat valley on 8 February - he was released after three days - and the bombing of the Wana Press Club on 18 and 19 February.
We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of intimidation. Such incidents foster a climate of fear that inhibits journalistic investigation and can promote self-censorship. We are particularly concerned about Pakistan's obligations to protect press freedom in the Swat valley region, where several of the recent attacks occurred, and where your government has recently agreed to restore sharia, or Islamic law.
We respectfully call on you to do everything possible to ensure that Mr Khankhel's killers and Mr Alam's attackers are quickly identified and brought to justice. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that those who kill, attack or intimidate journalists can not do so with impunity.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers
World Editors Forum
WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of
Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 12
news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is
non-governmental and non-profit.