A week after Pakistan justice pledge, journalist murdered

New York, May 10, 2011–The death of a journalist apparently targeted by militants in Pakistan today highlights the country’s entrenched climate of impunity for anti-press attacks, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari told a CPJ delegation on World Press Freedom Day that he would pursue justice for journalists killed on the job.

Nasrullah Afridi from the northwestern Khyber Agency was killed when his car exploded in the city of Peshawar late Tuesday, according to local and international news reports. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said in a statement that the journalist, who worked for Pakistan Television and the local Mashreq newspaper, was in Peshawar fleeing threats from militant groups. Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, called the death a targeted killing, according to the union and Agence France-Presse which did not provide further details. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was formerly the North West Frontier Province.

At least 15 journalists have died in targeted assassinations in Pakistan since 2002, according to research CPJ compiled and presented to Zardari.

“Nasrullah Afridi appears to be the latest victim of the fatal attacks that are increasingly threatening Pakistan’s journalists and inhibiting essential reporting,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “His death underscores the urgency for President Zardari to fulfill his commitment to address impunity for journalist murders.”

Police said a warlord, Mangal Bagh, had threatened Afridi in Khyber, AFP reported. The report did not provide further details. The device in his car was detonated remotely shortly after he returned to the vehicle, which was parked in a shopping area, news reports said.

CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz undertook last week’s impunity mission in Pakistan to press for firm commitments to confront impunity. “The protection of journalists is in my mandate,” the president affirmed.

Pakistan was the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2010, according to CPJ research. It also placed 10th on CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. It calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.