A Shi'ite cleric speaks to protesters after clashes between religious sects in Karachi November 27. (Reuters)
A Shi'ite cleric speaks to protesters after clashes between religious sects in Karachi November 27. (Reuters)

Pakistani journalist shot, critically injured during riot

New York, November 28, 2011–Authorities in Karachi should take stronger measures to protect reporters covering violent incidents, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today after a journalist was critically injured in crossfire on Sunday.

Ahsan Kohati, senior correspondent for the private Waqt television station, was hit in the chest by a bullet while reporting at the scene of rioting in the Numaish Chowrangi area of the city on Sunday, according to Mazhar Abbas, former secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, and local news reports. Kohati is being treated in the intensive care unit at a local hospital, Abbas told CPJ.

Three members of a banned militant group, who had taken part in a protest against a Saturday attack by NATO helicopters on a military checkpoint in Mohmand agency, sparked mob violence when they shot and killed two Shia Muslim volunteers at a religious event, according to the news reports. Kohati was injured when paramilitary forces fired on the rioters, local newspaper The Nation reported.

“The government should make every effort to train its military and paramilitary organizations in protocols which will minimize the danger to journalists and other bystanders as civil strife escalates in Pakistan,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “We join Ahsan Kohati’s family, friends and colleagues in wishing him a quick and full recovery. And while we wait for authorities in Karachi to investigate this shooting, journalists’ organizations and media houses should step up their efforts at ensuring their staff have full protective gear and the necessary safety training to cover Pakistan’s increasing violence.”

CPJ has repeatedly highlighted the dangers to journalists in Pakistan as well as President Asif Ali Zardari’s failure to combat an entrenched culture of impunity. November 23 was the International Day to End ImpunitySeven journalists have been killed in Pakistan for their work this year, and 41 since 1992. Only the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has been investigated and prosecuted, according to CPJ research.

CPJ honored The News reporter Umar Cheema with an International Press Freedom Award in New York on November 22. “We have lost many colleagues in a culture of impunity. Nevertheless there is no let-up in our resilience,” Cheema said in accepting the award. The day after his recognition, his colleague Mohammad Malick of The News received anonymous threats in relation to his reporting on a political scandal.