The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is distressed by reports that a militant group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), has claimed responsibility for murdering senior journalist Chishti Mujahid in Quetta on February 9.
According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, the murder of Mujahid is the first incident where an organised armed group has claimed responsibility for the targeted killing of a journalist in Pakistan.
While the BLA reportedly did not declare a motive for the killing, the PFUJ believes Mujahid was murdered in response to an article he wrote for Akbar-e-Jehan, one of Pakistan’s leading weekly magazines, regarding the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Balaach Mari in November 2007.
Mujahid had worked for Akbar-e-Jehan for 30 years.
Journalists in Pakistan have faced serious restrictions on editorial content, including the temporary closure of the nation’s airwaves, bans on live coverage of political events and public ridicule by government officials, since President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule on November 3, 2007.
The murder of Mujahid, however, signifies an alarming escalation of violence and serious direct threats to the personal safety of journalists in Pakistan.
"It is a dangerous trend, particularly in such a volatile situation, and must be discouraged and condemned," the PFUJ said.
IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park deplored the murder as a sinister act of violence that must not be tolerated or repeated.
“Journalists are the guardians of free expression. To target a journalist for their words is to deny the people of Pakistan their right to know what is happening in their own country,” Ms Park said.
“The IFJ sends sincere condolences to the family of Mujahid and encourages our colleagues in Pakistan to persist in their fight for press freedom as Pakistan approaches national elections.”
In 2007, six journalists were killed and more than 70 were injured in Pakistan. The IFJ said the country was one of the most dangerous places for a journalist to work, after Iraq.
The IFJ joins the PFUJ in demanding a thorough and conclusive investigation so that Mujahid’s killers are brought to justice. Only by doing this will the Pakistan authorities send a message that targeted killings are intolerable.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries