On Wednesday, we identified Pakistan as the country where the most journalists--eight--have been killed for their work in the past year. Six of them were on the job when they were killed in crossfire or a suicide bombing. Two others were assassinated.
I've been posting reports on one journalist--Umar Cheema--who wasn't killed, but whose case represents the other ugly reality, that the killings and abductions of journalists go uninvestigated in Pakistan. We rank Pakistan as 10th worst in the world when it comes to investigating journalists' deaths. The other pieces on Cheema can be found here.
As CPJ reports today, eight of the 42 journalists killed this year were on the job in Pakistan. It's accurate to say the Pakistani victims were like most journalists killed worldwide: They were local journalists covering stories in their communities. But with Pakistan's political and sectarian unrest aggravated by a decade-long war in neighboring Afghanistan, these journalists are covering a local story of global significance.
Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking member of the
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote to Pakistani Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani on September 22 to express concern about the brutal attack on Umar Cheema. The journalist was abducted on the weekend of September 4-5 by men in black
commando-style uniforms, who beat and humiliated him. It's a case I've written about repeatedly (you can find links here,
and here). But the prime minister has not yet responded to Lugar's letter, which was delivered through the U.S. Embassy in
November 3, 2007, was a dark day in the history of Pakistan's media. Former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf banned all private news channels, and some entertainment and sports channels, through an "oral order." He said he made the move to stop "irresponsible journalism." Many of the staff in the president's office who dealt with the media were unaware of his decision; intelligence agencies were used to tell the cable operators to pull the channels off air. Media reacted strongly. After 80 days of struggle, jailings, and legal battles, including sedition cases brought against some journalists, the government backed down from its decision and allowed the channels back on air.
CPJ has always been careful to avoid making accusations when journalists are abducted or killed in Pakistan. Our tactic is to call for full investigations either by the police, the courts or special investigative bodies. In many such cases, the local journalists' community blames government security agencies, including the powerful Inter Services Intelligence group (ISI), as we noted a few days ago in an alert. Umar Cheema, who was abducted and humiliated over the weekend of September 4 and 5 near Islamabad, has specifically accused the ISI of being involved in his case and has stuck with those accusations.
The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab has announced a research project to analyze the global infrastructure of Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry. It's looking for BlackBerry users from any country to take part--especially those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Russia and China.
All of these countries have at some point demanded that RIM make their BlackBerry network more surveillance-friendly. Some have threatened to ban BlackBerry services outright if their demands are not met. Other reports suggest that RIM has made concessions to some of these countries' demands.
One possible concession RIM might make is to move its Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) servers to locations within those countries' jurisdictions. BIS servers are the bridges between the internal BlackBerry network and the wider Internet. A locally-hosted BIS server would make it easier for domestic security services to monitor BlackBerry users' general Web traffic.
RIM has kept quiet about what agreements, if any, it has made with any government. Nevertheless, it is theoretically possible to work out the location of these BIS servers externally. If you're a journalist who uses a BlackBerry, all you have to do to help with this project is to visit the RimCheck website using your BlackBerry device and fill out a short form. The site will record the IP address of the machine your request comes from, and will attempt to determine where in the world that server could be located.
As most of the nation lay paralyzed and submerged in flood water, Pakistani journalists traveled in four-wheel drives and rickety boats to bring tidings from some of the hardest hit areas of the country. The Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) compiled a list of journalists directly affected by the flood, many of whom had had their homes washed away, while journalists who were still on their feet faced a host of other challenges.
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