ISLAMABAD: Mediapersons in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and 12 of them have lost their lives during the past 10 years. 

This was stated by participants of a seminar “Role of media in peace and development in Fata: issues and challenges” organised by Fata Research Centre here on Wednesday.

Former minister of state for information Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli said it was very difficult to work in the tribal areas. Maliks are being targeted by Taliban; journalists are being threatened by both agencies and the Taliban. There should be a regulatory authority to ensure that mediapersons worked freely, she added.

“When as the minister of state for information I wanted to install transmitters at the Durand Line to ensure radio signals there, I was not allowed to do so due to security reasons. I don’t know how journalists are coping with the situation in that area because tendency of intolerance is increasing day by day,” Ms Tahirkheli added.

Journalist Saleem Safi said media had failed to educate the world about Fata as well as people of the area about the world due to which at the moment no one has accurate information about the situation. There is a communication gap between the journalists and owners of media houses so the latter cannot understand their problems. On the other hand, most of the journalists in the tribal areas even don’t get their salaries and are becoming sandwiched between the security forces and Taliban.

President Tribal Union of Journalists Safdar Hayat Dawar said so far 12 journalists of Fata had been assassinated. He alleged that both the military and Taliban forced mediapersons to file stories of their choice, adding both didn’t care about human rights.

Taliban are running radio stations but the government does not issue licences to ordinary citizens, he added. “Overall, 240 journalists are working in the tribal areas and 40 per cent out of them do not get salaries. Recently, a journalist, Mukarram Khan Atif died but not a single MNA bothered to visit his house,” he said.

Senior journalist from Fata Sailab Mehsud said tribal areas were facing severe problems. He said 500,000 people from the Mehsud tribe had migrated from the area. On the other hand, the number of Taliban in the area is increasing due to negative polices of the government. There are so many forces in the region and everyone is playing their own game.

“There were 642 educational institutes in the area, out of which 102 were completely destroyed both by Taliban and the army.

The remaining have been closed and army personnel are using them as their residences. So many journalists were killed by other forces but the name of Taliban was used every time. Even at the moment, 70 per cent area of Fata is under the control of Taliban,” he said.

Haroon Rasheed, correspondent of BBC, said development cannot be carried out without a free media. He said 80 per cent males and 70 per cent females in the area listened to radio. Only five per cent people have access to newspapers. Taliban are using internet but the facility is not available to the local people.

Sami Yousufzai of Newsweek said tribal areas should be called ‘troubled areas’. At the moment, most of the journalists are reporting about drone attacks and they even don’t mention the identities of the victims.

Anwarullah Khan of Bajaur said he filed a report about killing of 30 persons in a village due to army’s bombardment and pointed out that according to residents of the area the victims were loyal to Pakistan.“The army commandant called me and said my house would be demolished. On the request of my relatives, the commandant forgave me but on the condition that I would leave the area for good. Now I am living in Peshawar,” he said.

Research Report: Meanwhile, speaking at the launch of a report on Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar said the government was committed to bringing a qualitative change in the life of the people of Fata.

He expressed the hope that the international community would also help the people in their efforts towards progress and prosperity.

“The crises in Fata are not the creation of the tribal people rather it was the international community which wanted them to fight against the Soviets and later left them alone,” he added.

The “Understanding Fata” research report was prepared by Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme.

The governor underlined the need for creating a better image of Fata and said such efforts could prove very helpful in this regard. He said Fata was a totally different society before the Soviets arrival in Afghanistan. The tribal society, he added, was even now a very disciplined, law abiding and peace loving, and the tribesmen were more patriotic than others. Munir Orakzai, MNA from Fata, also spoke on the occasion.

Originally published here.

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