Gunmen shot Umar, a correspondent for the privately owned Urdu-language newspaper Daily Dera News, in Dera Ismail Khan, a city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to news reports and the Rural Media Network Pakistan, a group that monitors media developments and promotes press freedom in the country’s rural areas.
Umar was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead, reports said. Police said the gunmen fled the scene and that an investigation was underway, according to news accounts. As of January 27, 2016, no arrests had been made.
Umar, who had contributed reports and photographs to the paper for more than a year, covered crime, terrorist activities, and security issues in the region, his employer, Naveed Sultan of Daily Dera News, told CPJ. Dera Ismail Khan is situated near the country’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, where the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have been known to operate, according to news reports. Sultan told CPJ that journalists and news outlets in the region operate under great risk but that he was not aware of any specific threats against Umar in the days or weeks before his murder.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Rural Media Network Pakistan, the motive for Umar’s murder was not immediately clear. Umar may have been targeted by the Taliban for his apparent pro-establishment reporting or he may have been a victim of sectarian strife, Hameedullah Aziz, from the media network, told CPJ by email.
CPJ research shows that journalists working in restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are at risk of violence. In a CPJ special report on Pakistan published in 2009, journalists in the region said that militant groups often complain of what they consider unfair coverage of their activities by the media. The journalists with whom CPJ spoke said the press is often under pressure from the government to play down the militants’ activities.