Pakistan reporter beaten for reporting on earlier attack

New York, June 20, 2011–Waqar Kiani, a Pakistani journalist who was assaulted Saturday night by men in police uniforms, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he fears for his safety and the safety of his wife and two young children. The attack came five days after Kiani, 32, had written a story the U.K. Guardian newspaper about being abducted and tortured in 2008.

On Saturday evening in Islamabad, men stopped the Guardian journalist and ordered him from his car. Kiani said four men beat him with their fists, batons, and a rubber whip.  “We’re going to make an example of you,” he said they told him. Kiani, a general news reporter, said he had not received threats from anyone before the attack.

Police have offered Kiani protection, he said, but he still fears for the safety of his family in Islamabad. According to Pakistani media reports, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, concerned about the case, has asked for an especially detailed report from the inspector general of the Islamabad police.

“With this latest attack, it’s become even more evident that security forces are targeting journalists and that the government must intervene,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “While we insist on a government response to these incidents, CPJ also supports Pakistani journalists’ efforts to organize to protect themselves.”

According to CPJ research, none of the special investigations called for by the government into the attacks against journalists have ever reached a conclusion or been reportedly publicly. The beating death in May of senior Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief of the Asia Times online, is only the most recent in a long stream of targeted killings. The government has ordered an investigation into Shahzad’s death, but it has not begun yet, Pakistan media reports said. The special investigation into the September 2010 attack on Umar Cheema, also by men in police uniform, has ended with no public explanation of the attack or a criminal prosecution.

Pakistan had the most journalist deaths in the world in 2010. On World Press Freedom Day (May 3), a CPJ delegation met with President Asif Ali Zardari, Malik, and several other members of the government to press for a reversal of the abysmal record of impunity with which journalists are killed in Pakistan. Pakistan ranks 10th on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which tallies prosecutions in the cases of murders of journalists.