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Pakistan Press Freedom Prize Awarded Posthumously to Journalist Malik Mumtaz Khan

The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) presented its 2014 Sadiq Press Freedom Award, supported by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), to the son of murdered journalist Malik Mumtaz Khan at a ceremony held at Punjab College in Ahmedpur East province.

“The recognition of Mr Khan is a symbol of the struggle for the right to information and a reminder to the international community about the tragic conditions Pakistan has been suffering since the War on Terror began following the 9/11 attacks,” said RMNP President Ehsan Ahmed Sehar in an address to journalists and local dignitaries.

Malik Mumtaz Khan, 48, was based in Miranshah, North Waziristan, in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas when he was shot dead on 27th February 2013. Mr Khan was on his way home when he was gunned down by unidentified men waiting in a vehicle with tinted windows, the kind widely used by militants in the region.

Mr Khan was associated with Khyber Television, GEO News and the Jang Newspaper Group and had over 20 years’ experience in journalism. He was also president of the Miranshah Press Club. Colleagues reported that he had received a number of threats prior to his murder, yet no group has so far claimed responsibility for his death. He leaves behind a widow, two sons and a daughter.

Recognising Mr Khan’s courage and dedication to the profession, an award of PKR 60,000 (500 Euros) was presented on Sunday 14th September to his son Mohammad Suleman Khan, who revealed that despite promises from the Pakistani authorities his father’s killers had not been brought to justice and his family was still awaiting compensation.

Journalists working in the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas have encountered multifaceted threats since the onset of the global war on terror. Pressure from security agencies and the administration, threats from militant groups and expectations from tribal leaders has made the job of reporting extremely difficult. Striking a balance between unbiased reporting and self-preservation on a daily basis has created high levels of stress amongst local journalists, the RMNP reports.

Pakistan is ranked 158 out of 180 countries in this year’s World Press Freedom Index and has one of the highest murder rates for journalists. “There is almost no space for freedom of expression in the country, which provides a free playing field for law enforcement authorities and extremist religious forces - particularly militant groups - to act as they please,” RMNP President Ehsan Ahmed Sehar said. “Despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s announcement of the appointment of a Commission for the protection of journalists, no further action has been taken."

The RMNP Sadiq Press Freedom Award was founded in 2005 and aims to recognise the courage and commitment of journalists and media organisations and to focus national and international attention towards the state of media freedom in Pakistan.