Washington, D.C., May 26, 2021 — Pakistan authorities must launch a credible investigation into the assault of journalist Asad Ali Toor and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday evening, three unidentified men beat, bound, and gagged Toor inside his apartment in Islamabad, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
CCTV footage following the attack shows Toor struggling to walk in his apartment building’s lobby as passersby helped remove the bindings. The journalist told CPJ that his arms were bloodied and bruised in the attack, and he required stitches on his elbow.
Toor works as a producer for the privately owned broadcaster Aaj TV, and also hosts a YouTube current affairs channel that has about 25,000 subscribers.
“Pakistan authorities must immediately find out who is behind the assault on journalist Asad Ali Toor and bring them to justice,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Pakistan must put an end to its long and sorry record of failing to prosecute crimes against journalists.”
Toor told CPJ that a man rang his doorbell and, when he answered, identified himself as an agent with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. That man then forced his way into the journalist’s apartment along with two others, who accused Toor of earning money from foreigners, he said.
The men told Toor that he should not be covering the ISI; when he responded that he had a right to do so, they threw him to the ground, bound and gagged him, and hit him repeatedly on his elbows with their pistols, he told CPJ. The men forced Toor to shout patriotic slogans supporting the army and the ISI, which he said he tried to do through the gag.
Toor said that one of the assailants answered a phone call, and he managed to slip the gag off his mouth and began shouting, after which the assailants threatened to shoot him if he did not shop shouting, and then fled the scene.
Toor said the men also seized electronic devices from his home, including his phone.
CPJ messaged the ISI public relations service at its official website but did not immediately receive any reply.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told CPJ via a messaging app that he had asked police to investigate the incident and predicted that the perpetrators would soon be arrested.
Last September, the Cybercrime Wing of the Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency registered a case against Toor for “defaming” the army; a court later dismissed the case, according to news reports.
In April, journalist Absar Alam was shot and wounded while walking near his home in Islamabad, as CPJ documented at the time. In 2020, Pakistan ranked ninth on CPJ’s annual Global Impunity Index, with at least 15 unsolved journalist murders since 2010.