Irshad Mastoi

Beats Covered:
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Two unidentified gunmen stormed the offices of the independent news agency Online International News Network in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and shot dead Mastoi, the agency’s bureau chief, and reporter-in-training Ghulam Rasool. A network employee, accountant Muhammad Younus, was also killed, according to news reports. The assailants fled the scene after the attack, according to reports.

Mastoi, 34, 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 of Baluchistan, according to colleagues.

Mastoi’s friends, family, and colleagues said that he had been threatened by an array of actors, including sectarian and militant groups, such as the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Baloch security agencies, according to reports. Shortly before his death, he told a friend that someone had been threatening him on the phone, but did not offer further details, the reports said.

Baluchistan–Pakistan’s largest province by area and smallest by population–has been mired in an insurgency and sectarian strife. Its residents face criminal activity, daily disappearances, and targeted killings, and international journalists are routinely denied access to the province, according to CPJ research. 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, CPJ research shows.