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Men stand outside a school that was allegedly set on fire by Taliban militants in Kandahar. The UN has condemned attacks on schools and children.
The global advocacy group Human Rights Watch is calling on the UN's top human rights body to pay more attention to what it calls the deteriorating rights situation in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Julie de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, told RFE/RL today that the UN Human Rights Council took a "first step" in adopting a resolution on June 18 condemning attacks on schoolchildren in Afghanistan.

But de Rivero said it was not enough to focus on only one issue.

"What happened at this session is insufficient and really does not respond to the plight of victims of Afghanistan,” de Rivero said. “We've been documenting different types of abuses which take place in detention centers, including problems within the judicial system, due process rights, but also unfortunately the practice of torture."
Several prominent journalists in northwest Pakistan have told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal about what they say is a growing danger to the press in their region.

Journalist unions say that over the last six years, 30 journalists have been killed or wounded in Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and tribal areas.

Behroz Khan is a Peshawar-based journalist and the former president of the Khyber Union of Journalists.

"Our colleagues are being killed, tortured, harassed, and kidnapped," Khan told Radio Mashaal. "Both the militants and the authorities threaten us if we report [against] their interests."

Aneela Shaheen, the secretary-general of the Peshawar Press Club, described how the worsening security situation has driven women away from the profession. "If there were 10 female journalists [in the past], now only five are left," Shaheen said.

"We receive threats from both the security agencies and terrorist organizations," she said. "Our life is under constant threat."

The issue of journalists' safety was highlighted on June 16 in Peshawar, when a group of journalists gathered to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of journalist Hayatullah Khan. In circumstances that are still not clear, Khan's handcuffed body was found in June 2006.

The gathering in memory of Khan was organized by the Khyber Union of Journalists and the Tribal Union of Journalists. They demanded the government make public the high court investigation into Khan's case and bring people to account for his murder.

One particularly dangerous place for journalists has been the picturesque Swat Valley, where Pakistan launched a military operation against the Taliban in May 2008.

Journalists there say they have faced repeated threats from security forces and Taliban militants. The conflict displaced over 250 journalists from Swat and the surrounding districts.

Fayaz Zafar, chairman of Swat Press Club, says that four journalists have been killed in Swat alone since the launch of the military operation.

"One journalist was killed by security forces for allegedly violating a curfew, while the remaining three were killed in attacks carried out by the Taliban," he said.

Zafar added that the government has yet to provide support to the families of the slain journalists, or even carry out a comprehensive probe into their killings.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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