Attacks on journalists expose intolerance, Swat truce: HRCP

Press Release, February 19, 2009


LAHORE: The murder in Swat of journalist Musa Khankhel hours after his abduction on Wednesday dampens the unreasonably high expectations of peace after a truce called between the government and local militant groups, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.


The murder also exposes risks to free expression in the restive region, HRCP said. At the same time, an attack on SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam in Lahore, also on Wednesday, reveals the extent of intolerant attitudes in the rest of the country, the Commission said in a press statement on Thursday.


The statement said: “Journalists have frequently faced violence in the tumultuous Swat region. However, Khankhel’s murder became the first violation of a truce between the government and militant groups. Ironically, the journalist was covering a ‘peace march’ led by the local militant leader’s father-in-law when he was taken away.


The president and prime minister have expressed grief and ordered an investigation. But this must go beyond political statements. The government must look more closely at its new partners in ‘peace’, who have been consistently accused of large-scale and unusual savagery and destruction, of which there has been abundant evidence and media coverage. It is that independent coverage that Khankhel’s murder aims to prevent. The government must ask itself if it is negotiating with a party that has the ability or willingness to deliver on its promises.


Khankhel’s brutal murder has understandably shaken journalists in the Swat region. The warning could not have been any clearer for them.


Mercifully, Mr Imtiaz Alam escaped serious injury in the attack in Lahore. However, the incident exposes the threat intolerance and militancy pose to free expression across the country.


The government must act swiftly to bring the perpetrators in both cases to justice and protect journalists working in Swat and the rest of the country.”


Asma Jahangir


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