Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

IWPR Trainee Breaks Top Story

Curfew in troubled region of northern Pakistan eased following IWPR trainee’s scoop.
By IWPR

Noor Rehman, 15, a trainee on IWPR’s youth journalism project in Pakistan, Open Minds, was the only journalist in the country to provide first-hand reporting of a suicide bombing in the volatile Swat Valley.

Rehman attributed his quick thinking and action to his IWPR training, “I like to help and to serve my village and my nation, and after the training I am observing every incident around me and I love to do this.”

When a militant blew himself up at the Circuit House in Swat’s main town of Saidu Sharif on March 13, security forces sealed off the region, and two days later imposed a curfew as they launched an operation against the militant group that was suspected of carrying out the attack.

The security forces prevented local people from going to school and work, and patients were stopped from traveling to hospitals.

The military operation also shut down much of the local telecommunications network, so the national media could not get updates about developments in the area.

But Rehman struck lucky. On March 15, the day the curfew was imposed, he was able to use the only phone in his village that worked to call his Open Minds media trainer, Niaz Ahmad, giving him news about events in Swat. Ahmad was in the country’s capital Islamabad at the time.

Rehman told Ahmad the security forces had arrested three rebel fighters and recovered weapons from them, and described the problems the people were facing due to the curfew.

At around 10 am, following Rehman’s phone call, Ahmad contacted major national TV stations to give them this information, and it was broadcast. By 1 pm, the federal authorities in the capital had ordered a relaxation of the curfew, apparently in response to Rehman’s reports.

Even after the curfew was eased, no other reporters travelled to Swat to investigate the situation. They only took reports from the military’s media wing, Inter Services Public Relations, ISPR. Rehman remained the only civilian reporter covering the aftermath of the incident.

Ahmad is very proud of his trainee. He told IWPR he had informed TV executives that Rehman was a reliable source and a good trainee. “If he had not had any training, he would have ignored the incident like other boy,” he said.