Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Taliban Kills Three Journalists, Vows To Attacks "Propagandists" Again

                                                                        Pic courtesy RSF


Three TV journalists from the Express Media Group were murdered on January 17 in Karachi, capital of Pakistan’s violence-wracked Sindh. The Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

Media watchdogs expressed outrage at Islamabad’s lethargy in pursuing investigations into incidents of violence against journalists and media institutions by Islamist groups, government intelligence agencies and others, and said this had bred a culture of impunity. The January 17 incident is the third armed attack since August on the politically liberal Express Media Group.


“It is time that the Sharif government took its obligations seriously, to ensure justice is done and that the media is able to operate in Pakistan without fear of deadly reprisal. As long as impunity runs rife in Pakistan, journalists and media workers will continue to die,” said the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Similar sentiments were echoed by Pakistani and other international media freedom monitors.
  
Waqas Aziz (technician), Ashraf Yusuf (security guard) and driver Khalid Khan of ‘Express News,’ were killed when their van parked in North Nazimbad, a suburb of Karachi, during a routine coverage was attacked by four gunmen on two motorbikes who opened fire with silencer-fixed pistols through the vehicle’s open window. A cameraman, identified as Mehtab, also in the vehicle, survived the attack. IFJ said 17 shell casings from 9mm and 32-bore pistols were recovered from the crime.

IFJ and the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) seemed to accept that TTP was responsible for the incident. “TTP representative Ehsanullah Ahsan said his group was responsible for the shooting. Speaking by telephone on the ‘Express News’ programme Kal Tak, he said that, ‘in the war of ideologies all media channels including ‘Express News’ are acting as propagandist and as rival party,’” said RSF.

However, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed reservation. While noting that Ehsanullah Ehsan had contacted ‘Express News’ and indeed claimed responsibility for the attack and Reuters had reported that a “regional Taliban leader” had too claimed the attack, CPJ said, “The Taliban had also rushed to claim responsibility for the 2012 murder of Mukarram Khan Aatif, but local journalists soon cast doubt on their claim. Journalists in Pakistan are targeted not only by militants, criminals, and warlords, but also by political parties, the military, and intelligence operatives.”

While identity of the attackers are important what has outraged journalists most is the impunity enjoyed by the killers. RSF said, “[Ehsan] warned that the TTP would continue to attack all news media ‘that are involved in carrying out propaganda against us.’ Referring to an earlier attack on the ‘Express Media’ group in December, [Ehsan] added: ‘We had not incurred any loss of life so we attacked them again.’”

There have been no arrests over the two earlier attacks on the Express Group. On August 17 four gunmen opened fire at the its offices in Karachi injuring a journalist and a security officer and on December 3 a homemade bomb was lobbed into the same premises wounding a security officer.

“Despite visiting the Express Media office in Karachi twice and constituting investigation teams to probe the two incidents, law enforcement agencies have been unable to arrest even a single perpetrator,” the IFJ charged.

The killing brings to four the number of journalists killed this year in Pakistan and 10 fatalities made the country the third worst for journalists and media workers in 2013, said IFJ. Pakistan ranks 159th of179 countries in RSF’s Media Freedom Index.

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