Conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan endanger journalists, report says

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New Delhi: Intensifying conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose threats to the lives of journalists, while dangers have eased in Sri Lanka and Nepal with the end of fighting there, a media group said Tuesday.
A report by the International Federation of Journalists said threat levels to journalists also remain high in conflict-ridden areas of India’s remote northeast, the Himalayan region of Kashmir and central India, where Maoist rebels have stepped up a decades-old insurgency.
The report titled “Free Speech in Peril: press freedom in South Asia” also examines the threats and challenges faced by the media in Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives. It was released in New Delhi on Tuesday to mark World Press Freedom Day.
An upsurge in violence in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan has made the region among the most hazardous in the world for reporters, said Sukumar Murlidharan, the report’s editor.
“Both sides of the conflict — the Baluch nationalist forces seeking to break free of the federal government, and the army and the paramilitary that have been deployed in strength to defeat the secessionist movement, have been known to pick on journalists with little respect for their status as non combatants,” Murlidharan said.
He said the situation was the same in Pakistan’s north, where killings, abductions and injuries from suicide bombings pose a major threat to reporters, contributing to the death of 14 journalists over the past year.
In contrast, hazards for reporters have declined in some other South Asian countries, Murlidharan said.
In Nepal, threats to reporters’ lives have declined sharply since the end of a decade-long armed revolt by Maoists, the report said. The rebels were known to frequently threaten, beat and kill journalists who wrote critical articles about them.
The end of Sri Lanka’s civil war almost two years ago has led to a decline in violence, but the climate of impunity for violations of journalists’ rights continues, the report said. Investigations of murders and disappearances of journalists have made little headway, it said.
In India, the largest country in the region, coverage of the Maoist insurgency has posed new challenges for the media, with reporters viewed with suspicion by both rebels and government forces, the report said.

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