Journo's killing condemned

2009-02-19 17:05

Pakistan - Hundreds of journalists protested across north-west Pakistan on Thursday to condemn the killing of a television reporter who was covering a peace mission led by a pro-Taliban cleric.

Unknown gunmen shot dead 28-year-old Musa Khan Khel on Wednesday near the town of Matta in the troubled Swat valley, where Islamist hardliners have waged a nearly two-year campaign to enforce Sharia law.

The killing triggered a wave of anger among journalists across Pakistan.

Khel, as Swat correspondent for private Geo TV, was reporting on a march held by the leader of the Sharia movement after he secured a controversial deal with the Pakistan government to impose strict Islamic law in the area.

Hamid Mir, one of Khel's colleagues, told a gathering of mourners in Swat that Khel's body was riddled with 32 bullet wounds.

More than 500 journalists, members of civil society and lawyers marched from the press club to the governor's house in the main northwest city of Peshawar, asking the government to protect media personnel, an AFP correspondent said.

Full protection

"We want justice!", "We want Musa Khan Khel's killers arrested!" and "We salute Musa Khan Khel's courage!" shouted the protestors outside the governor's house, wearing black bands on their arms and foreheads.

"Our government should provide full protection to journalists, who are becoming victims in the war on terror," the president of the Khyber Union of Journalists, Mohammad Riaz, told the rally.

Witnesses said that protests were also held in Bannu, Nowshera and Mansehra in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, and Bajaur and Khyber, in the country's semi-autonomous tribal areas.

"We condemn the ghastly assassination and urge the government to investigate the killing and bring those responsible for committing the crime to justice," Mazhar Abbas, the head of Pakistan's Federal Union of Journalists told AFP.

"The government should also make public the investigation report and we urge the media to organise proper safety training courses," he added.

Protestors also condemned a bomb attack against a local press club in the restive South Waziristan tribal area, which borders Afghanistan.

The two-storey building was reduced to rubble by the explosion in Wana, the main town in the region on Wednesday. No one was wounded.

Pakistan's north-west and lawless semi-autonomous tribal areas have been wracked by violence after hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels sought refuge there following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Pakistan has hailed the agreement in Swat as the best way to quell the bloody insurgency, but Islamist hardliners have yet to disarm. It has also provoked alarm in Europe and Nato as well as in neighbouring Afghanistan and India.