Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Nasrullah Afridi, a leading journalist in the Tribal Areas, was killed yesterday in the northwestern city of Peshawar by a powerful bomb planted in his car, which he had parked in an area where many news media are located. Normally based in Bara, in the Khyber Agency tribal area, Afridi had moved to nearby Peshawar after being threatened by militants.
“We offer our condolences to Afridi’s family and friends,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This targeted bombing has yet again highlighted the dangers that journalists run in Pakistan, even when close to their news organizations. We urge the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and to do everything possible to end the vicious cycle of impunity.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The violence to which journalists are exposed, regardless of the region where they work, is making it impossible for the media to function properly. If journalists are not killed when out reporting, they are exposed to reprisals after their stories are published, and those responsible are almost never caught.”
Police said the bomb was set off by remote control when Afridi returned to his car, which he had parked outside the Khyber Super Market. This was confirmed by eye-witnesses questioned by Reporters Without Borders. The blast shattered the windows of several news media that have offices nearby.
The correspondent of the Urdu-language daily Mashriq, Afridi had made a lot of enemies by writing articles critical of certain political groups in the Bara area of Khyber Agency. No group claimed responsibility for the bombing but colleagues told Reporters Without Borders they suspected the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which had threatened him several times.
Video report about Nasrullah Afridi’s murder (by Iqbal Khattak):
Yesterday’s bombing came just nine days after two journalists – ARY News correspondent Jehangir Aslam and Abdul Wahid Baloch, who works for the provincial government’s press office – were wounded by shots fired by two men on a motor-cycle in an apparent murder attempt on 1 May in Turbat, in the southwestern province of Balochistan.
“We had not received any threats,” Baloch said, adding that Aslam, who sustained gunshot wounds to the chest, was now out of danger. No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting. Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani condemned the attack and ordered the police to quickly identify and arrest the gunmen.
Four journalists – Samar Abbas and Asif Mirza of Dawn News and Wasim Malik and Liaqat Abbasi of Samaa TV – were meanwhile beaten in Islamabad on 27 April by the security guards of Zarei Tarakiati Bank Ltd (ZTBL), one of Pakistan’s biggest banks, when they went to cover an attempt by the staff of a pension fund to recover funds owed by the bank.
The attack on the reporters was allegedly ordered by ZTBL president Zaka Ashraf in person. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani ordered information minister Firdos Ashiq Awan to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident. Two bank officials and three security guards have been arrested.
When the prime minister passed through Paris on 5 May, Reporters Without Borders handed him a report on press freedom violations in Pakistan and told him that the safety of journalists should be a priority for his government.
Ranked 151st out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan has seen many cases of violence against journalists in the past year. Afridi’s murder brings to 15 the number of journalists killed in the past 14 months.