Peshawar, Nov.18 : Foreign journalists covering news in Pakistan's Peshwar city may find it increasingly difficult to work in the coming days, as there is a growing threat to their lives from extremists, states a Daily Times report.
Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai spent most of his time in dangerous areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks in the US to look for interesting stories for his news organisation. During this period he never came as close to death as he did on last Friday.
"I think some divine intervention saved me. The gunman was less than a metre away from me," Sami was quoted as saying in the hospital by the Daily Times. He is presently recovering from bullet wounds in his chest, left arm and right hand.
Sami was going by car for a meeting with a Japanese journalist in the upscale Hayatabad locality, when four armed men intercepted their car, apparently to kidnap them for ransom. Had the attempt been successful, it would have been the first kidnapping of a foreign journalist in Peshawar.
Such kidnappings are frequent in Afghanistan where western reporters are abducted and released after payment of ransom.
The journalist community here has stated that Friday's incident was an attempt to scare foreign journalists away from Peshawar, making the provincial capital off-limits to Western media.
"It seems Peshawar is becoming a no-go area for foreign journalists. Threats to journalists have increased with the increase in military operations in the Tribal Areas," said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Peshawar-based journalist.
"The situation will deteriorate in the coming days for journalists," Yousafzai forecast while saying that both sides--the Taliban and the government forces --would want "the truth is not discovered" by journalists.
Concerns for the safety of foreigners in Peshawar have never been higher with the recent kidnappings of an Afghan envoy and an Iranian diplomat and the killing of a US aid worker in the city.
Journalists covering conflicts in the Tribal Areas and Balochistan often get caught between the devil and the deep-sea situation. The pressure from either the Taliban or the security forces is making their job difficult.
Seven journalists have been killed till November 8 this year. Qari Muhammad Shoaib was killed by security forces' firing in Swat while Abdul Aziz was killed in an airstrike after Taliban kidnapped him in August. Five journalists have been killed in North and South Waziristan and Bajaur since February 7, 2005.
Meanwhile, a senior government official, who requested anonymity to the Daily Times, was stated to be advising the journalists to take extra care while reporting in the Tribal Areas.
Even the academicians foresee a threat to foreign journalists.
"Peshawar will become off-limits to foreign journalists, as the enemy is unknown and you don't know who wants to kill you. In such a situation, it is difficult for journalists to work," Faizullah Jan, a lecturer in journalism at the Peshawar University, said.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has also expressed concern at the deteriorating security situation in Peshawar for local and foreign journalists.
"The situation is getting worse and things look bleak for foreign journalists. They can be an easy target," PFUJ General Secretary Mazhar Abbas said.