Politicians, journalist and human rights bodies condemn incident and urge authorities to investigate and apprehend the culprits
Police in Islamabad on Tuesday registered a case against an unidentified man for opening fire on senior journalist Absar Alam and leaving him injured.
The former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was shot in his torso while he walking in a park in the federal capital’s F-11 area. A subsequent video statement released by him while in a car was widely shared on social media. In it, he said he had “shot by someone,” adding that he had a message for the people responsible: “I will not be intimidated.”
Police have said that they have inspected the crime scene and are securing CCTV footage of the area for further investigation. Alam has reportedly informed them that his attacker was in his 20s.
The attack on the senior journalist prompted a wave of condemnations from politicians and journalist bodies of Pakistan. Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said he had ordered the Inspector General of Islamabad to launch an inquiry and immediately arrest the people involved. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry similarly condemned the incident, adding that the police had been directed to immediately probe the matter.
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, in a posting on Twitter, condemned the attack. She prayed for his health and regretted that silencing the voice of dissent was a cancer that has “plagued this country for many years.”
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the incident and demanded that the people involved be arrested as soon as possible. “An inquiry should be launched into the incident,” he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slammed the assassination attempt, and said such “cowardly acts of violence against journalists [are seen] as an assault on an already muzzled media.” The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, meanwhile, termed the shooting an act of terrorism, and said authorities should take immediate action against the culprits.
The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors condemned the attack and demanded the government arrest the culprits, while the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists noted that Alam was now stable. “Attacks on journalists have become a routine matter and many journalists have been martyred, but the government has failed to provide security to journalists despite repeated calls,” it said.
Pakistan this week was ranked 145 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, which specifically cited enforced disappearances and targeted attacks on journalists, as well as state-mandated censorship of news organizations of coverage critical of the government and military.