Two journalists dead and five injured in Pakistan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shafiullah Khan is in critical condition after suffering extensive burns in this Peshawar bombing. CPJ erroneously reported in this alert that Khan had died in the attack.

New York, June 13, 2011–CPJ calls on Pakistan media organizations to review their security and journalist safety training procedures to address the mounting number of deaths of journalists in the field. Two journalists died and five more were injured in a double bombing in Peshawar on Saturday night. The explosions took the lives of 36 people in all.

There was a first small blast at the Khyber Super Market drew a crowd, including journalists covering the story. The second larger blast, apparently a suicide bomb, went off after the crowd had grown. This follows closely on the heels of the May 10 bombing death of journalist Nasrullah Afridi, who died when his car blew up in an explosion at the same market.

Arshad Aziz Malik, president of the Khyber Union of Journalists, told CPJ about the identities of the two dead journalists. They are Asfandyar Khan, who worked with different media organizations and had recently joint Akhbar-e-Khyber, and Shafiullah Khan, a young graduate, who had recently joined The News International as a reporter-in-training. None of the five who were injured are in serious condition as of today, Malik said.

“Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists last year and now and it looks like it may be again this year, with at least five killed so far,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.  “The government is unable to protect journalists from attacks. Therefore, media owners, managers, and journalists in the field must quickly unite and together work hard on establishing and ensuring their security.”

The Saturday attack took place in a predominantly military area where many major Pakistani media organizations also have their offices. It is not clear whether the bombers had targeted the military or the media or who the culprits were. Peshawar is the administrative center for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and runs along the border with Afghanistan. Many insurgent groups are based there. The city is notorious for its lack of security.

In 2010, with eight dead, Pakistan ranked as the most dangerous country for journalists. The record of impunity with which they are killed is nearly and horribly perfect, according to CPJ’s global Impunity Index, giving it the rank of 10th worst in the world.  On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, CPJ sought to improve this ranking. The organization met with President Ali Asif Zardari, Interior Minster Rehman Malik, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan, and other members of the presidential staff. The CPJ delegation called for an investigation into the 15 targeted killings that CPJ has recorded since the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl’s death has been the only murder of a journalist in Pakistan that has been investigated and prosecuted since 1992, according to CPJ’s records. At a meeting with CPJ, Zardari pledged to address the problem. Malik’s office also promised to look into CPJ’s list of killed journalists. So far, these promises have not been met and there has been no other response or action taken by the government.