Assailants target media outlets in Karachi

New York, February 18, 2014–Pakistani authorities should launch an efficient investigation into attacks against media outlets in Karachi and ensure the perpetrators are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Explosive materials were found in the parking lot of ARY television network’s offices in Karachi today, according to the Pakistan Press Foundation and news reports. The materials, which did not explode, were taken away by police, reports said. ARY carries national and international news in English and Urdu.

On Monday, unidentified assailants on a motorcycle threw a hand grenade at the offices of Aaj TV, which exploded and damaged the entrance of the building, according to news reports. Two staffers suffered unspecified injuries in the attack, according to news reports. Rasool Baksh, a security guard, and Yunus Magsi, a driver, were in stable condition at a local hospital, Syed Asfar Imam, a correspondent for the news channel, told CPJ. The driver has been identified in some reports as Abdus Sattar.

Aaj TV, an Urdu-language news channel based in the Gurumandir neighborhood of Karachi, covers local, national, and international news. Imam told CPJ that Aaj TV, and particularly its current affairs talk show, “Bolta Pakistan,” regularly receives threats from political parties and militant groups.

Assailants also threw a hand grenade at the offices of the Nawa-i-Waqt media group, about a half-mile away from the Aaj TV offices, before fleeing the scene, according to news accounts. The Nawa-i-Waqt group owns the Urdu-language Waqt News television channel and other outlets, which cover national news. The grenade failed to detonate, and a bomb squad eventually defused it, the reports said.

Imam told CPJ that he believes the same assailants were responsible for the attacks on the offices of Aaj TV and Nawa-i-Waqt, but did not offer further details. News accounts reported that the attacks were carried out by the same individuals, but did not elaborate on how the connection was determined.

It is unclear if the attack on ARY was related to those on the offices of Aaj TV and Nawa-i-Waqt media group. The same materials were used in all three attacks, according to news reports citing local police. Pakistani police and intelligence agencies said they were investigating, according to news reports.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, according to Imam and news reports. In recent days, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, issued a fatwa against several journalists and media outlets, telling them that they would be attacked if they did not provide what they called fair coverage of the group.

“We condemn these latest attacks in Karachi and call on the government to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers amid a deteriorating security situation,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.

Last month, three media workers were killed in an attack against Express Media Group’s offices in Karachi. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the deadly violence. Journalists in Pakistan are targeted not only by militants, criminals, and warlords, but also by political parties, the military, and intelligence operatives, according to CPJ research.

Past investigations into anti-press violence in Pakistan have lacked credibility, and perpetrators have rarely been brought to justice, according to local journalists. CPJ ranked Pakistan eighth on its 2013 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free.