Reporters Without Borders has learned with sadness of the death today of Mukarram Khan Atif, a correspondent for Washington-based Deewa Radio and a reporter for the Pakistani television station Dunya News who was shot dead in a mosque near Peshawar.
“This is distressing news and we express our condolences to the family and friends of Mukarram Khan Atif,” the press freedom organization said.
“The Pakistani authorities must at all costs take action to protect journalists, especially those who are subjected to threats. Otherwise, there will be no improvement in conditions.”
Safeerullah Gul, Peshawar bureau chief for Dunya News, told Reporters Without Borders two unidentified gunmen shot the journalist who was at evening prayers in a mosque in Shabqadar, in the Charsadda district of the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Wounded in the chest and the head, Atif was taken to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.
A tribal journalist from North Waziristan, Rasool Dawar, later told RSF that banned militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanulah Ehsan phoned him to "accept responsibility" for killing Mukarram Khan.
The claim was made in a telephone call to the journalist in Peshawar. However, the militant organization’s spokesman did not elaborate why the journalist was target-killed.
Atif’s colleagues said he had told them he sometimes received phone calls giving him directives on how he should cover events.
He had moved to the Charsadda district from his home region of Mohmand for reasons of safety. “He was under threat from elements trying to take control of the tribal region,” tribal journalists, who asked no to be identified, told Reporters Without Borders.
Atif, who was highly respected by his colleagues, reported on the Mohmand tribal region at great personal risk for Deewa Radio and Dunya News.
The morning before his death, he spoke to a representative of Reporters Without Borders, Iqbal Khattak, to confirm his attendance at a training course next week on responsible reporting.
The former president of the Tribal Union of Journalists, Safdar Dawar, said the murder took place against the backdrop of “unprecedented pressure” on Pakistani media as a whole.
Atif was the first journalist to be killed in Pakistan this year. For the past two years, the country has been has been the deadliest in the world for media workers. Last year, 10 journalists journalist were killed as a result of their work.