Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pakistan: another journalist killed

Journalism is a risky profession, more so in Pakistan: For the past two years, Pakistan has been the deadliest country in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research. At least seven journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2011, says Committee to Protect Journalists in its January 17 report. Five of them were in targeted killings. Another was killed on Tuesday near Peshawar in Pakhtunkhwa province where in most parts the state has either outsourced or lost sovereignty to extremists in its pursuit of 'strategic interests' in bordering Afghanistan.
Mukarram Khan Aatif was a correspondent for private TV station Dunya News and also worked for Deewa Radio, a Pashto-language channel of the Voice of America. He was praying in a mosque near his home in Shabqadar, a town near Peshawar, when two gunmen entered the mosque, shot him several times, and fled on a motorcycle. 
Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan called The Associated Press and said the Pakistani group took responsibility for the killing. Ihsan said Aatif had been warned "a number of times to stop anti-Taliban reporting, but he didn't do so. He finally met his fate."
Atif earlier left his hometown in Mohmand, a Taliban-infested tribal agency that borders Afghanistan, when he received threats because of his journalistic work. Journalists, especially those working in the volatile tribal areas, face threats from several actors--intelligence agencies of the state included.
Atif is the 77th journalist killed in Pakistan since January 2000 and till date no culprit has been named, arrested or punished in any of these cases. This has emboldened both the state agencies and the extremists to kill those journalists with impunity who do not toe their line. The high-profile murder of Saleem Shehzad, who wrote about Al-Qaeda's connection with Pakistan's Navy, was probed by a judicial commission. However, the commission filed its report after a six-month inquiry, without naming the murderers.
Daily Express Tribune in its January 13 report says that about the possible reason behind the brutal killing of the journalist was the conclusion that "in all likelihood, the motive behind the incident was provided by the writings of Saleem [Shehzad]. What is not so clear is the question of who had that motive and actually acted upon it."
In other words, Shehzad the victim is to blame for his own killing, which gives a license to everybody with an interest in suppressing the truth to kill with impunity. States have a monopoly on violence, but when state institutions abrogate transparency and accountability in their use of violence, they also abrogate their monopoly on violence.
When states use proxy forces for their strategic and security purposes, non-state actors become states unto themselves while journalists become target to be taken out.

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