Zardari must address attacks on journalists in Pakistan

Zardari must address widespread anti-press violence. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

New York January 14, 2011--As Asif Ali Zardari visits Washington today, the Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Pakistani president to address growing anti-press attacks in his country.

"Pakistan's foundering security situation affects everyone in his country, but journalists' deaths are particularly egregious. Uninvestigated, unprosecuted attacks on journalists undermine the country's tradition of a free press," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. "It is an issue that needs attention from the highest levels of government in Pakistan."

Zardari was in Washington today to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and attend a memorial service for U.S. Special Representative Richard C. Holbrooke. Just hours earlier, on Thursday evening, Pakistani television reporter Wali Khan Babar was executed along a road in Karachi. Babar had aired a report on gang violence in the city shortly before he was murdered.

Pakistan was the deadliest country in the world in 2010, according to CPJ data. At least eight journalists were killed on the job, six in suicide bombings or militant strikes, and two in targeted assassinations. The country ranks 10th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free. At least 12 journalist murders have gone unsolved over the past decade.

Journalists killed in targeted attacks in 2010 were:

  • Misri Khan, a reporter for the newspapers Ausaf and Mashriq, who was killed on September 14, 2010. Khan, head of the local journalists association, was shot several times as he entered the press club building in Hangu, a volatile town near the border with Afghanistan.
  • The body of Ghulam Rasool Birhamani, a reporter for the newspaper Daily Sindhu, whose body was found outside his hometown of Wahi Pandhi, Sindh province, on May 10, 2010, a day after he had been reported kidnapped. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the media support group Pakistan Press Foundation reported that his body showed evidence of torture.

Other anti-press attacks have also gone unsolved. In September, men in commando-style uniforms abducted Umar Cheema, a prominent political reporter for the English-language daily The News, in a suburb of Islamabad, holding him for two days as they beat and humiliated him. Cheema has directly blamed the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency for the attack, an assertion many journalists support. A government investigation has been inconclusive.

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