Unidentified gunmen shot dead a local journalist in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province on Monday.
Khadim Hussain Sheikh was on his way to the office with his brother Ishaq on a motor-bike when unidentified gunmen intercepted them and shot them at close range. Khadim died instantly. Ishaq was seriously injured and has been admitted to hospital. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said it believed Khadim was targeted for his work as a journalist.
Sheikh was the bureau chief of Urdu daily newspaper Khabrein and a stringer for Sindh TV, in Hub, Balochistan.
“Even though there have been improvements in press freedom in recent days, Pakistan’s journalists are still working in some of the most dangerous conditions in the world,” said International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary Aidan White. “We hope that the new government will fight impunity for journalists’ attackers and bring Khadim’s killer to justice.”
Sheikh is the third journalists killed in Pakistan this year and the 29th journalist killed in the last eight years. In 2007, eight journalists were killed in Pakistan, matching the number killed in Somalia. Iraq was the only country that saw more journalists killed last year. IFJ is backing PFUJ in its demand for an investigation into the killing and prosecution of those responsible for the crime.
“In the past, investigations of the murder and kidnapping of journalists had been put in cold storage but we expect the present government to take very serious notice of this murder, the first under the new government,” PFUJ said in a statement.
Last week the new Information Minister Sherry Rahman introduced a parliamentary bill proposing to end the ban on live broadcasts and also to scrap punishments for journalists who “defame” the president, the government or the army. Additionally, bans on radio and television news and criticism of the government put in place when emergency rule was imposed in November will be abolished. These restrictions included jail terms and fines for those responsible for live programmes or any publication that the army and the government finds defamatory.
“We welcome these developments and we hope that the government will also ensure that journalist safety improves so that our colleagues can work freely and without fear of reprisals,” White said.
“We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of Khadim Hussain Sheikh,” said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia Programme Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We urge the newly elected government to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the press by vigorously investigating this case, which would help break the cycle of impunity that surrounds the killing of journalists.”
Control of Baluchistan province, which is rich in natural gas reserves, is the subject of a protracted and violent dispute between Pakistan’s central government and ethnic Baluch militants, according to CPJ. Chishti Mujahid, a columnist and photojournalist for the weekly magazine Akbar-e-Jehan was shot and killed, apparently by militants, in the province’s capital city of Quetta in February.