Armed men attack editor of Pakistani daily

New York, June 3, 2014–Pakistani authorities should conduct an efficient investigation into an attack on an editor of a local daily and ensure the assailants are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Zafar Aheer, an editor of the Urdu-language Daily Jang, was returning home from work on Sunday when six armed men on two motorcycles and in a car surrounded his vehicle, news reports said. The assailants beat Aheer, confiscated his mobile phone, and fired around his car before fleeing, the reports said. The editor was bruised on his face and shoulders, according to reports.

Aheer told BBC Urdu that the assailants said those who worked for Jang group were traitors, Jews, and agents for India’s intelligence agency. He said he had received death threats recently in connection with his affiliation with the Jang media group, reports said.

Daily Jang, part of the Jang media group, is headed by Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who also serves as the top executive at Geo TV. Rahman’s media outlets have come under increased fire since Geo TV broadcast allegations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was responsible for the assassination attempt on Hamid Mir, one of its anchors. Geo has also been facing pressure from religious conservatives for airing a daytime show that clerics allege was blasphemous, according to reports.

Police said they are investigating the attack.

“How much longer do Pakistani journalists have to walk in fear that anyone with a political agenda or grudge can have them beaten or killed without consequences?” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities must launch a thorough investigation into the attack on Zafar Aheer and ensure that both the assailants and those who sent them are held to account. Anything less will further endanger already vulnerable journalists, including those who work for Geo TV Network and the Jang Group.”

CPJ signed a joint letter with other press freedom and human rights groups on Thursday that called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to follow through on commitments he made to CPJ in March to address anti-press violence.