CPJ condemns assault on Pakistani journalist

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:

This month, CPJ named Pakistan one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom.