Policemen go through the debris of a bomb blast in Dadu, located in the southern province of Sindh, February 14, 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Yasir Rajput
Police found the mutilated body of a local journalist outside the village of Wahipandhi in Sindh, Pakistan today. The body of Ghulam Rasool Birhamani, a journalist with local daily Sindh, was found in a field near the village. According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Birhamani had been kidnapped from the village two days previously.
The Pakistan Press Foundation said the body bore marks of torture, and the cause of death were grievous wounds to the head.
There is little doubt among members of the local journalists’ community that Birhamani was killed because of his reporting. Shamsul Islam Naz, PFUJ secretary general, told IPI that Birhamani’s reporting had made him unpopular with local tribal authorities.
“He was killed because the influential persons of the area did not like his reporting on women’s rights and the empowerment of women,” he said.
“He was threatened quite a few times.”
According to the Pakistan Press Foundation, Birhamani had received threats some days before to the kidnapping after he reported on the underage marriage of a girl from the Lashari tribe.
Shamsul Islam Naz of the PFUJ told IPI that as of Wednesday no progress had been made in the investigation. The PFUJ said that the family of the journalist was hesitant to name any specific people in the report they filed to the police, for fear of harassment and reprisal.
Meanwhile, journalists in Naushahro Feroze, also in Sindh province, held a demonstration to protest against what they claimed was the assault of a journalist by a local Pakistan People’s Party leader. The politician is alleged to have assaulted one journalist and issued threats to at least three others.
The media in Pakistan face increasing harassment and violence, from different quarters: state security forces, insurgent groups, and tribal factions. Journalists in Pakistan frequently face pressure from all three groups.
Reporters in Pakistan also run the risk of being caught in crossfire or bomb explosions in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, (formerly known as the North Western Frontier Province), where rebel groups frequently attack civilian targets in their battle against the Pakistani army.
In April, British-born journalist Asad Qureshi was kidnapped from Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by members of a hitherto unknown group called the Asian Tigers, along with two former members of Pakistan’s Intelligence Services. The kidnappers have reiterated demands for the release of several Taliban leaders from Pakistani prisons. The body of one of the ISI operatives has been found, and fears persist about Qureshi’s safety.
Also in April, two journalists were killed on assignment when bombs exploded in the cities of Quetta and Kohat.
“Pakistani journalists work under the shadow of violence and death, in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on all parties, state and non-state, to respect the independence of the media, and on the authorities to find and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes against journalists.