Amnesty urges Pakistan to probe threats to media

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News,World,Pakistan,Amnesty International,Press Freedom

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan should investigate threats to journalists and probe its military and intelligence agencies for stifling media freedoms, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Pakistani journalists often face threats from the country's spy and military agencies, political parties, Islamic militants, separatist insurgents and al-Qaida-linked groups, Amnesty said in its report, which followed the shooting earlier this month of Geo News anchor Hamid Mir.

Mir's brother blamed the shooting on the military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. Mir himself said the "ISI within ISI" was responsible without elaborating. Since the shooting, Geo News has seen its signal blocked in areas of the country.

Amnesty's report said the spy service was implicated in the abductions, torture and killings of journalists. It also said it didn't respond to its queries about the allegations against it over the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in May 2011. Shahzad had reported that al-Qaida had infiltrated Pakistani armed forces before his death.

U.S. officials have said Pakistan's military and intelligence service authorized Shahzad's torture and murder. Pakistani officials have denied it, though no state agency is more feared by the journalists than the ISI, the report said, quoting dozens of journalists who claimed they suffered at the hands of the agency.

"A critical step will be for Pakistan to investigate its own military and intelligence agencies and ensure that those responsible for human rights violations against journalists are brought to justice," said David Griffiths, Amnesty's deputy Asia-Pacific director.

Amnesty said Pakistani authorities rarely investigate threats or attacks against journalists, let alone prosecuted their attackers. It said that caused to journalists resort to self-censorship.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Pakistan is one of the deadliest countries to work in as a journalist. It says 54 Pakistani journalists have been killed since 1992.

"Pakistan's media community is effectively under siege," Griffiths said.

Pakistani Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid declined to comment on the report.

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