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Black November for journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

November 27, 2015

Reporters Without Borders condemns Pakistani journalist Hafeez Ur Rehman’s murder on 22 November in Kohat, a city in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He was the second journalist to be murdered in this province in less than a month.

Aged 42, Hafeez Ur Rehman was returning home when unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot him three times and then drove off. He died on the spot. A journalist for the past 12 years, he worked for privately-owned Neo TV, owned a local TV station called New Star, and used to edit his own local daily, Asia, until he closed it a year ago.

Rehman’s murder came just weeks after journalist Muhammad Zaman Mehsud, 40, was gunned down in a similar fashion on 3 November in Tank, in the south of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Shot five times, he died shortly afterwards in hospital.

The Taliban claimed the murder of Mehsud, who was a reporter for the Nai Baat and Daily Ummat newspapers and was secretary-general of the South Waziristan branch of the Tribal Union of Journalists.

“These two latest deadly attacks in less than a month have again highlighted the disastrous security situation for journalists in Pakistan, one that is completely unacceptable,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

“We urge the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa authorities to do whatever it takes to ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice and that journalists are finally able to work freely and without fear of being murdered. Something must be done about the rampant impunity for crimes of violence against journalists in Pakistan. The right to information of 185 million Pakistanis depends on this.”

Although the motive for Rehman’s murder has yet to be identified, journalists are favourite targets of the Taliban and other armed groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Taliban recently criticized the way they have been covered by the Pakistani media since the army imposed a blackout on reporting of their activities. Bordering both Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is at the heart of the armed conflict between the army and Taliban.

A culture of impunity continues to be a distinguishing feature of Pakistan, which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad’s murder in May 2011, a case spotlighted by Reporters Without Borders on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, is still unpunished more than four years after his death.

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