Journalist gunned down in Pakistan, another still missing

New York, August 15, 2011–Alarm continues to mount for the safety of Pakistani journalists with the assassination of a reporter on Sunday in restive Baluchistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Also, a senior reporter remains missing in Waziristan, after being abducted on August 11.

Muneer Shakir, who wrote for the Online News Network and was a correspondent for Baluch television station Sabzbaat, died on Sunday after he was shot as he headed home from the press club in Khuzdar, the district capital in the center of Baluchistan, around midday. Shakir died at Khuzdar’s District Headquarters Hospital, Pakistan media widely reported.

Shakir, a general assignment reporter, had not mentioned receiving threats, Pakistan media quoted members of the Balochistan Union of Journalists as saying. Baluchistan is wracked with tension between Baluch separatists, government forces trying to suppress their movement, and militant groups who use the region as a rear guard staging area for the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. Many Baluch journalists straddle the line between political activism and journalism.

Pakistan has a near-perfect record of impunity in journalist murders, with 17 murders (not including Shakir’s) unsolved since 2001.

“Conditions for journalists in Pakistan continue to steadily decline, with unexplained murders, abductions, and a stream of threats from many quarters,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “With the government unable or unwilling to address the problems, journalists must organize among themselves to establish safer working conditions and emergency response systems.”    

Five journalists have died in Pakistan for their work so far this year, and none of the cases have been fully investigated. With eight dead in 2010, CPJ ranked Pakistan the most dangerous country for journalists that year. In a blog titled “Quantifying the threat to journalists in Pakistan,” CPJ described the growing threat level for journalists in the country.

The disappearance of Rahmatullah Darpakhel has gone similarly uninvestigated, Pakistan media say. Darpakhel, who reported for the Urdu daily Ausaf and Aaj TV, was abducted in North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the borderline with Afghanistan on August 11.

At a rally on Saturday, Pakistan media reported that colleagues said Darpakhel was not known for filing controversial stories that would anger either government intelligence agencies or Taliban militants. In its initial report about Darpakhel’s abduction, CPJ reported that Taliban groups in the region denied any role in the reporter’s disappearance.