Local Pakistani reporter’s murder reflects global issue

The murder of a journalist such as Ghulam Rasool Birhamani might tend to be quickly forgotten. After all, he was a local reporter for a small newspaper, the Daily Sindhu Hyderabad, in a country where violence is routine. But hundreds of his fellow journalists turned out on Wednesday for a march to protest his killing and push for justice, Dawn newspaper reported.

Birhamani, 30, was found murdered on Monday outside his hometown of Wahi Pandhi, Sindh province, after being kidnapped the day before.

One of the protesters, Riaz Chandio, told Dawn that Birhamani had been killed for reporting a story about the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to a 22-year-old man about two months ago. Birhamani had reportedly received threats from members of the Lashari tribe concerning the story. Another marcher said police were delaying arrests because “feudal lords were trying to dominate the district and journalists had to bear the major brunt.”

These are trends CPJ sees in its worldwide data: Nearly 90 percent of journalists killed around the world are local reporters covering local stories for local audiences. Impunity is the phenomenon we are fighting around the world, and Pakistan is a central part of that effort. CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index ranks Pakistan as the 10th worst country in the world in addressing deadly anti-press violence.

In 2009, television correspondent Musa Khankhel was similarly abducted and executed; he was covering a peace march in a militant-controlled area in Swat when he seized. His death has gone unprosecuted, too. We see complete impunity in about 90 percent of the 16 journalists murdered for their work in Pakistan since 1992. With the complacency of the Zardari government in confronting impunity, it seems sadly realistic to say that the percentage may edge higher.