Reporter shot and killed in Rawalpindi

New York, March 27, 2009–Pakistani authorities must not allow Thursday’s shooting death of veteran Pakistani reporter Raja Assad Hameed in Rawalpindi go uninvestigated and unprosecuted, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Hameed, who worked for local broadcaster Waqt TV and the English-language daily The Nation, and appeared regularly on Al-Jazeera broadcasts, was shot several times at close range outside his home at around 10 p.m., according to local and international news reports. The reports said a small group of armed men killed Hameed with a volley of gunshots when he opened his front door to answer the doorbell.

Police said they have no clear motive for the killing, and were not sure if it was related to Hameed’s work as a journalist. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also said there is no clear explanation of why Hameed was attacked.

“The aura of impunity surrounding the killings of journalists that arose during the Musharraf government continues to be a harsh reality in Pakistan.” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Zardari government must act swiftly to investigate Hameed’s death and begin to unravel the years of unexplained deaths of journalists.”

While government officials were quick to denounce the killing and promised a full investigation, not since in the murder case of American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 has another journalist’s killer has ever been brought to trial in Pakistan.

Today, Federal Information Minister Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira told the official Associated Press of Pakistan that the “government is fully determined to investigate thoroughly into [Hameed’s] murder  . . . and the perpetrators will be brought to justice at all costs.”

But the PFUJ was skeptical about the government’s commitment to protecting journalists. “Failure of the authorities to even probe the murders of journalists has created serious doubts about the sincerity of the government in protecting the journalists and has increased fear among the community,” it said when it announced Hameed’s death.