Monday, September 6, 2010

Media Staff Among Balochistan Blast Victims

Media Release: Pakistan

September 6, 2010

Media Staff Among Balochistan Blast Victims

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned for the safety of media personnel in Pakistan in the wake of a devastating suicide blast in Quetta on September 3, in which one media worker was killed and at least eight others were injured.

IFJ affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) reports that Mohammad Sarwar, a driver for Pakistan’s Aaj TV, died in the Civil Hospital in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, from gunshot injuries.

It remains unclear whether his injuries were sustained in skirmishes that broke out after the blast, or if he was targeted in a separate attack.

At least 65 people died in the blast and the ensuing shootings, with more than 160 others injured, according to local media reports.

Sarwar was on assignment at the Al-Quds day rally, an international protest in support of Palestine sovereignty, in the Meezan Chowk marketplace in central Quetta when the blast occurred.

The eight journalists injured in the attack were also taken to hospital for treatment, and are now reported to be in a stable condition.

A group connected to the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which targeted Shiite Muslims, a minority in the country.

“Unfortunately, this attack proves that the dangers for journalists and media personnel working in Balochistan province show no sign of improving,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“The IFJ joins the PFUJ in calling on Pakistan’s authorities and media organisations to take every reasonable precaution to protect their staff, especially in volatile situations such as in Quetta.”

Local authorities had warned rally organisers, the Imamia Students Organisation, to stick to a planned route due to concerns over sectarian violence, after another Shiite rally was attacked in Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, on September 1.

The PFUJ has drawn attention to the fact that media staff are rarely trained or equipped to work in potentially lethal environments.

In a separate incident, investigative reporter Umer Cheema, of The News, was abducted and intimidated by men in police uniforms in Islamabad on September 4, according to the PFUJ.

Cheema was held captive for more than six hours by the group, who urged him to stop writing articles critical of the Government and accused him of encouraging martial law.

Pakistani authorities, including Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, have assured Cheema and the PFUJ that the Government played no part in his abduction, and that a full investigation would be conducted to find the culprits.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Shamsul Islam Naz
Secretary General
12-Nazimuddin Road, F-6/1
Islamabad, Pakistan
Phone Office +92(0)51 2870220-1
Facsimile +92(0)51 2870223
Cellular +92(0)300 8665523

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