Three shot dead at Pakistan’s Online International News Network

New York, August 28, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of two journalists and a network employee in Pakistan today, and calls on authorities to investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Two unidentified gunmen stormed the offices of the independent news agency Online International News Network in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, killing the bureau chief Irshad Mastoi and a reporter, Ghulam Rasool Khattak. A network employee, accountant Muhammad Younis, was also killed, according to news reports.

All three were shot several times, according to police. Khattak and Younis were killed immediately, and Mastoi was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead, reports said. The assailants fled the scene, according to reports.

“This brazen attack underscores the dangers faced by journalists in Baluchistan where the press is constantly under pressure from all sides,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities must bring not only the gunmen but also those who commissioned them to justice. Anything less will send the signal that journalists can be killed with impunity.”

Mastoi was secretary-general of the Baluchistan Union of Journalists, the largest journalist body in the southwestern province, according to Malik Siraj Akbar, editor and founder of The Baloch Hal news website. Mastoi was an assignment editor for the privately owned news channel ARY News and had written for publications including The Express Tribune. He had reported on issues including the political situation in the restive region, according to colleagues.

It is not clear what Khattak covered at the news agency.

Baluchistan–Pakistan’s largest province by area and smallest by population–is mired in an insurgency and sectarian strife. Its residents are faced with criminal activity, daily disappearances and targeted killings, and international journalists are routinely denied access to the province.

CPJ research shows that local journalists in Baluchistan face pressure from a number of sources: pro-Taliban groups and Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies, as well as separatists and state-sponsored anti-separatist militant groups. At least six other journalists have been murdered in Baluchistan in direct relation to their work in the past decade, according to CPJ data.