News editor threatened in Pakistan

New York, November 23, 2011–An editor of a Pakistani newspaper received threatening telephone calls and was followed by men he believed were government agents, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Mohammad Malick is the editor of The News in Islamabad, a paper that prominently covered the story about a memo that resulted in the resignation of Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, on Tuesday. The paper ran extensive coverage of the incident in which Haqqani allegedly asked for the U.S.’s help to control Pakistan’s military in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. Malick helped publicize the story, a major scandal in Pakistan, on numerous Pakistani television political talk shows. According to news reports, in May Haqqani sent a letter to Admiral Mike Mullen, at the time the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Haqqani asked for American assistance in case of a possible coup attempt; in return, the government of President Asif Zardari government would assist U.S. efforts against Islamic militants.

Malick told CPJ that on Wednesday, he received a phone call from a blocked number. He was told that he was “going too far” in his reporting about “Memogate,” and that the next step “might not be a warning–you could have an accident.” Malick said he has been openly tailed by several white Toyota Corollas since the call–the type of car regularly used by government intelligence agencies.

“For journalists, the best way to combat anonymous threats is to make them widely known. Given the tense political situation in Pakistan, Mohammad Malick’s fears of reprisal for his reporting are valid,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “His suspicions that government agents of one sort or another are behind the threats might well be justified, and he is right to act aggressively to protect himself as best he can.”

On Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari announced that Sherry Rehman, a former journalist and information minister in the early days of Zardari’s government, would be Pakistan’s new ambassador to the U.S.