Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another journalist murdered, another murderer escapes. The ugly face of power in Swat

The murder of Musa KhanKhel, a TV journalist, in Swat yesterday sadly awakens all the fears we have had about the deal the army and the Taliban have just made there. Posted a few minutes ago on Earth Times Online the article reveals how little has changed: In fact, KhanKhel had been threatened by Pakistani officials. It makes us wonder how to distinguish between "officials" and criminals.

KhanKhel had reported being threatened by "a powerful force ... they want to kill me" and that he had repeatedly refused to "report what the army wanted him to report." Someone didn't want him to report on what he was learning: Who? The Army?. Of course the intent of the murder was not merely to silence this voice but also the voices of those who are left alive. Someone wanted to ensure that journalists avoid revealing things those with the weapons of power want hidden. Again the ancient wisdom: "Men loved darkness rather than light; they would not come into the light lest their deeds be exposed." And they would take a life rather than have the truth revealed. How precious does that make the truth?

The one thing we can confidently affirm is that the killer will go free. A chilling fact of life in Pakistan is that murderers of journalists get away with it. Of the two dozen journalists killed in the last two years, virtually none of their killers has been found. I have the highest respect and admiration for those now who have the courage to demonstrate publicly against the government -- the army, essentially, which owns most of the country -- in the face of the terrifying impunity enjoyed by criminals. Thank God for the Pakistani journalists who persist in exposing the truth as they know it at the risk of their lives.

Here is the article from The Earth Times.

Pakistani journalists protest colleague's killing
Posted : Thu, 19 Feb 2009 11:48:08 GMT
Author : DPA

Islamabad - Pakistani journalists on Thursday held rallies across the country to protest the overnight killing of a local reporter in the troubled Swat district of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). Musa Khankhel, a correspondent for the Geo TV and English-language daily The News, was seized by gunmen in the Matta area on Wednesday when he was covering a peace rally by Islamic cleric Sufi Mohammad, the father-in-law of Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah.

Khankhel's bullet-riddled body was found few hours later in Detpani village, some 4 kilometers from Matta. "He received 30 bullets," said Fayyaz Zafar, a local journalist.

Around 200 journalists held a protest rally in Islamabad, chanting slogans in support of press freedom and demanding protection for media persons working in conflict areas like Swat and the tribal region, where the government forces are fighting Islamist insurgents.

"The situation in Swat is very dangerous, but we will continue to report from there. We will not bow to the extremists and the armed militias," said Ihsan Haqqani, a journalist from Swat.

Tariq Chaudhry, president of the National Press Club, told the rally that 24 journalists had lost their lives in the line of duty during the last two years in Pakistan, while dozens more were injured or harassed.

"The killers of none of these 24 were ever arrested and brought to justice," he told the rally.

Similar protest demonstrations were also held in several other cities, media reports said.

Scores of journalists gathered outside the press club in Mingora, the main town of Swat, and demanded the arrest of the murderers and an enquiry into the incident, which was the first violation of the 10-day ceasefire announced by the militants.

Hundreds of people attended Khankhel's funeral on Thursday.

The slain journalist was trying to get the details of the ongoing negotiations in Matta where the cleric Mohammad is trying to convince his son-in-law to join the peace deal he has signed with the regional government in NWFP to end the conflict in Swat.

Fazlullah has been fighting the security forces since late 2007 in a campaign for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the region. The rebellion has left hundreds of militants, security personnel and civilians dead, and caused a mass exodus from the war-torn district.

Under the peace accord signed with Mohammad, the NWFP government agreed to establish Islamic courts in Swat and six other districts in the Malakand region.

No group has claimed responsibility for Khankhel's murder, but his media organization reported that he was also receiving threats from the authorities.

"I have been receiving death threats from a powerful force. They are after me. They want to kill me," Khankhel was cited as saying by The News. The daily said his organization took up the issue with the authorities.

A journalist in Swat who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Khankhel had repeatedly refused to "report what the army wanted him to report."

An international organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), condemned the murder of the journalist.

"We mourn the tragic death of Musa Khankhel and send our condolences to his family and colleagues," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia programme coordinator.

"But grief and condolences are not enough - the government must act swiftly to bring his killers to justice and protect journalists working in this volatile region."

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, NWFP's information minister, condemned the killing and termed it "an attack on the (provincial) government."

Copyright, respective author or news agency

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