New York, May 18, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the continuing escalation of attacks on journalists amid Pakistan’s deteriorating security situation. The latest incident is an assault on Shakil Ahmad Turabi, editor-in-chief of the South Asian News Agency (SANA), in Islamabad. Turabi was pulled from his car and beaten in a commercial area of the capital at around 10:45 a.m. today, according to Iqbal Anjum, SANAs news editor.
“The government must immediately and fully investigate the attack on Shakil Ahmad Turabi and bring the culprits to justice no matter what their affiliation or motive,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “In the highly charged political atmosphere that prevails across Pakistan, the government is increasingly unable or unwilling to provide safety for journalists.”
Attacks on journalists and media houses have increased in recent months as tension has mounted around the ouster of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The judge is seeking reinstatement after being removed by presidential order on March 9 on allegations of misconduct.
Turabi was hospitalized at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences tonight. He suffered bruising, but was no longer in the emergency ward.
Turabi, speaking through SANA editor Anjum, who was at his bedside, told CPJ that his attackers dragged him from his car; hit, slapped, and kicked him; and asked if “the chief justice was his father.” The day before the attack, Turabi had written a piece that contradicted government claims that local police, not government intelligence agents, had roughed up Chaudhry when the judge was first detained in March.
Pakistani media organizations and individual journalists have come under legal and economic pressure, as well outright assault, as they have covered demonstrations and other developments that followed the justice’s dismissal:
- On May 12, Aaj TV’s newsroom in Karachi was caught in violence between anti- and pro-government groups in Karachi, when its office came under fire from what media reports identified as pro-government supporters.
- On April 26, government regulators ordered Royal TV off the air after its coverage of demonstrations supporting Chaudhry.
- On April 24, CPJ wrote a letter urging President Musharraf to reverse anti-press actions and allow for greater public criticism of your administration in the media.
- On March 27, CPJ noted Pakistan’s deteriorating media environment by cutting off government advertising to the Dawn Group of Newspapers, which has covered the demonstrations and been critical of the government.
- On March 16, riot police fired tear gas and roughed up staff inside the Islamabad office of the Jang Group, which houses Geo TV, the Urdu-language Daily Jang, and English daily The News. The raid came a day after authorities ordered Geo to stop airing its popular daily news program, “Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath” (Today with Kamran Khan).
This month, CPJ named Pakistan one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom.