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For the second year in a row, Reporters Without Borders has named Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Eleven reporters were killed there last year — among the latest, 43-year-old Mukarram Khan Aatif, a highly respected veteran reporter for the Voice of America’s Pashto language radio. He was killed while he prayed at a mosque near his home.
The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility, saying, “We have been warning him to stop his propaganda against us in the foreign media.”
Despite Dangers, Journalism Flourishes In Tribal Regions
Lawrence Pintak is advising journalism students in four universities in Pakistan’s tribal regions, where the Taliban is strongest. A professor at one of the universities told him, “We need to include conflict safety training in our curriculum,” because students face roadside bombs and Taliban threats while on class assignments, and professors are killed and kidnapped.
Even with the dangers, Pintak says journalism is still flourishing in the region, with men and women signing up for the programs. As Pintak told Here and Now’s Robin Young, young Pakistanis are pursuing journalism, “because they want to have a voice… journalism is another way for them to impact their communities and their country.”
Dangers From Military And Taliban
“Pakistani journalism is incredibly vibrant… every political view point is reflected in the media,” Pintak said. But the government itself is divided between civilian and military leadership, and journalists are in the middle of that battle too, meaning that “journalists are as likely to be threatened or killed by the Taliban as they are by the Pakistani military.”
Pintak says meeting journalism professors from the region put his problems as the head of a journalism school in perspective.
“While we worry about budget cuts, they are literally putting their lives on the line for journalism education, and that’s a very inspiring thing,” he said.