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IFJ Demands Pakistan Bring Journalist’s Killers to Justice

June 1, 2011

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and journalists around the world in condemning in the strongest terms the brutal murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in Pakistan.

The PFUJ, an IFJ affiliate, reported late on May 31 that a body found in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin, about 150km southeast of Islamabad in Punjab province, was that of Shahzad. The body reportedly shows signs of torture.

"We are losing our professional colleagues but the Government never unearths who is behind the killing of journalists," the PFUJ said in a statement.

Shahzad, who worked for Asia Times Online and Italian news agency Adnkronos, is believed to have disappeared in the F-6/2 area of Islamabad about 5.45pm on May 29, after leaving his F-8 Sector residence to participate in a talk show at Dunya TV.

Two days earlier he had published the first of a two-part investigative series into alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani naval officials.

The IFJ welcomes statements by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that the Government of Pakistan has ordered an immediate inquiry into Shahzad's abduction and murder, and notes their stated commitment to bring the culprits to justice.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced a reward of PKR 2.5 million (about USD 29,000) for anyone who provided information about Shahzad's killers.

The IFJ notes that Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports being informed by credible sources that Shahzad was detained by members of the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). HRW said yesterday that Shahzad had reported receiving threats from ISI members, and warned that if anything happened to him the media should be quickly informed.

Shahzad was reportedly summoned to ISI headquarters on 17 October 2010 to discuss his sources and the content of an article published in Asia Times Online, which alleged Pakistan had quietly released Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, Mullah Omar's deputy, to take part in talks through the Pakistan army.

A senior intelligence official told the Associated Press yesterday it was absurd to say that the ISI was involved in Shahzad's murder.

The IFJ reiterates its appeal sent yesterday to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani in a joint letter with Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) calling for government ministers and leaders of military and police agencies to ensure an immediate and transparent investigation.

In view of the past failure of Pakistani authorities to bring perpetrators of violence against journalists to justice, the IFJ urges the Government to establish a high-level task-force to investigate the murder, and advises the Government to call in the services offoreign agencies if such assistance is necessary to secure a successful investigation.

"By acting quickly and firmly, you have an opportunity now to reverse Pakistan's appalling track record in investigating abuses against journalists, including murder, abduction and assault. But action must be taken before the trail goes cold," IFJ and RSF said in their joint letter.

"We have seen too many cases in the past several years when action was not taken quickly while evidence remained intact, as in the murder of Musa Khan Kel in Swat in February 2009.

"Only with an immediate, transparent and well-resourced investigation into Mr Shahzad's disappearance can we regard the State of Pakistan as committed to the rule of law and to ending once and for all the culture of impunity that has prevailed for too long when it comes to the use violence against journalists working in the best interests of Pakistan's people."

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in expressing their deepest condolences to the wife of Shahzad and his three children.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: + 32 2 235 22 07

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