The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the attack on Zafar Aheer, a resident editor for the Daily Jang newspaper. Half-a-dozen unidentified armed and masked men attacked Aheer and left him injured in Multan, Punjab province on Saturday, May 31.
Aheer was returning home from his office when the attackers stopped his car and started beating him. The assailants, travelling on two motorbikes and a car, tore down his cloths and snatched his mobile phone at gunpoint. They left after firing bullets in front of his car. Police have registered a case and are investigating.
The attack on Aheer is the latest addition to an ongoing hostile situation that journalists of the Jang Group, which owns Daily Jang and Geo TV among others, are facing since the murder attempt of highly respected journalist and anchor of Geo TV Hamid Mir in Karachi in April 19. Following the attempt on Mir, Mir’s family accused the Pakistan army’s spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), of orchestrating the attack.
The Pakistani military has formally demanded the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) revoke Geo's license for waging a "vicious campaign" aimed at "undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state institution". Despite an unconditional apology from Geo TV for the claims, both the army and ISI have continued to publicly put pressure on Geo TV.
The situation was further muddied by a separate incident when religious extremists accused Geo TV of broadcasting blasphemous material during a morning show on another program Utho Jago Pakistan (Wake Up Pakistan) on May 16. Following the complaints, a meeting of three members of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) suspended the broadcasting licenses of all three TV stations owned by Geo on May 21. Other members of PERMA later revoked the decision but not before many cable TV operators took down Geo TV channels.
The IFJ said: “The deteriorating security situation for journalists in Pakistan is deeply concerning. We call for an immediate investigation into the brutal attack. Pakistan’s journalists are in a horrific situation witnessing a deeply disturbing spike in attacks on individual journalists as well as the targeting of specific news outlets.”
“It is time for the government to heed the calls of the media community in Pakistan and make meaningful changes to make journalists safer and to ensure death threats and attacks are thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950
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