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Murder of Journalist Illustrates Dangers, Again

Pakistan -- A journalist holds a placard while taking part in a demonstration in front of the Parliament building in Islamabad, 28Jan2013
Ayub Khattak, a journalist for Pakistan's Karak Times, was gunned down in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on October 11, according to the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

Colleagues and family members believe that Khattak was murdered in retaliation for his reporting. Fellow reporter Haleem Bukhari told RWB, “The deceased had filed a story on the sale of drugs and drug-sellers and that appears to have been the reason for his targeted killing.”

Khattak was accosted near his home by two men on a motorcycle who questioned him about his reporting before shooting him several times with a Kalashnikov.

According to RWB, Khattak is the seventh journalist murdered in Pakistan this year.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has for several years running designated Pakistan among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world, citing the number of reporters killed and the impunity that attaches to such crimes.

CPJ reports that seven journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2013 alone. It has concluded that 28 Pakistani journalists have been murdered since 1992 in connection with their work, 27 of whom were killed with impunity. Another 24 were killed during this period, although their deaths cannot be confirmed as "targeted."

While the victims of such crimes are overwhelmingly local reporters, several high-profile journalists have also been slain, including: Malik Mumtaz, a reporter from North Waziristan for Pakistan's "The News International" and Geo Television, who was gunned down while on his way home from a funeral in a nearby village in February this year; Mukarram Khan Aatif, a correspondent with the Voice of America's Deewa Radio and a contributor to the private TV station Dunya News who was murdered in January 2012; and Saleem Shahzad, a journalist investigating links between Pakistan's military and al-Qaida who was abducted and found dead in May 2011.

RWB has observed a rise in violence against reporters in Pakistan in recent months, citing an attack against journalist Sardar Shafiq by three individuals armed with steel bars on the evening of 10 October.

CPJ reported that Ali Chishti, a journalist who covers national security and counter-terrorism for The Friday Times was abducted by uniformed police officers in Karachi and later beaten before being released on August 30.

Pakistan is ranked 159th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. In its 2013 survey, Freedom House characterized Pakistan's media as "Not Free," and ranked it 146 among 191 countries polled.

For direct reporting from and about Pakistan and the country's northwest tribal areas, read and listen to Radio Mashaal.