New York, April 16, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Pakistani news reports of the arrest of a provincial government minister in the killing of Munir Sangi, a cameraman for the Sindhi-language Kawish Television Network (KTN). Sangi was shot in May 2006 while covering a gunfight between members of the Unar and Abro tribes in the town of Larkana, in southeast Pakistan’s Sindh province.
According to Pakistani media reports, the former minister and a tribal leader, Altaf Unar was arrested today on the order of Sindh police. Pakistani media in recent days had reported on the investigation, and the arrest of Unar, and possibly others, was not unexpected. Soon after his arrest, Unar was widely quoted in Pakistani media, claiming he was being victimized by the new coalition government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, which came to power on March 17.
The arrest is the first to come in any case of a killed journalist in Pakistan since the kidnap and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Since Pearl’s death, 14 more journalists have been killed in Pakistan.
“It is reassuring to see that under a new government Pakistan is beginning to address the impunity with which journalists have been killed,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We hope the investigation into Munir Sangi’s death is the first of many that will bring the killers of journalists to justice.”
At the time of Sangi’s death, CPJ reported that while police said he was killed in crossfire, colleagues believed he had been deliberately targeted for KTN’s reporting on a jirga, or tribal council, held by leaders of the Unar tribe.
CPJ has long complained of the government’s inaction in investigating the deaths of journalists. One of the highest profile killings was the shooting death of Hayatullah Khan, who was gunned down in June 2006, after having been abducted in December 2005. Following a public outcry, an investigation by High Court Justice Mohammed Reza Khan was completed in August 2006, but never released by the government of Pervez Musharraf.
“The quick release of the investigation into Hayatullah Khan’s death would be a significant step in helping Pakistan move forward in reestablishing its beleaguered media. Only when journalists know they cannot be killed with impunity can Pakistan truly say that it has a fee press,” Dietz said.