Pakistan - Two journalists gunned down two days apart in Punjab

Two more journalists have been killed in Pakistan, bringing the number murdered since 28 August to four. The latest victims were gunned down two days apart in Hafizabad, in the southern province of Punjab.

Nadeem Haider, a reporter for the Urdu-language Daily Dunya, was gunned down in the Kaliki Mandi area of Hafizabad on 3 October by two men who then fled. Yaqoob Shehzad, a reporter for the Express News and Daily Express newspapers and president of the Hafizabad Press Club, was slain on 5 October.

Although both journalists were clearly targeted, they had not had received any prior threats, their families say.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the mounting death toll in Pakistan, which is one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel. The police are investigating the killings but have yet to identify those responsible.

So far, the police have arrested a suspect in the Haider case. They have also produced facial composites of four suspects with the help of witnesses, and have recovered video recordings of Shehzad’s murder from security cameras.

We take note of the initial actions of the police,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

Given the impunity usually enjoyed by those who kill Pakistani journalists, we urge the authorities to deploy all available resources in order to successfully complete these investigations. The effect of two more unpunished murders on Pakistan’s media profession would be dramatic and would lead to even more self-censorship.”

Concern is growing about the climate of violence, one that is regularly punctuated by death threats, bombings and shootings and affects journalists, other media employees and families alike.

The Express media group’s offices were attacked in August and December 2013, while many of its employees have been the targets of threats and shootings. Jamshed Baghwan, the Express News bureau chief in Peshawar, has been the target of three bombing attempts, the latest in July.

Some of these attacks have been claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which said it was acting to combat the negative coverage it was getting from Express News and other media.

But it is not just terrorists and gunmen that go after news media that tackle sensitive stories. Four Urdu-language newspapers including the Express were the target of a judicial investigation launched in April 2013 under the anti-terrorism law.

Pakistan is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.