Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Pakistani authorities to respond quickly and effectively to yesterday evening’s attack on the ARY News TV channel’s Islamabad bureau by masked men on a motor-cycle, who fired several shots and threw a grenade that injured an editor.
When security guards fired back, the gunmen fled scattering leaflets in which responsibility was claimed by “Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan” – the terrorist group’s “Khurasan” regional branch. The leaflets also accused ARY News of being an “extension of the ISPR,” the Pakistani military’s public relations department. “We reaffirm our support our support for ARY News and all of its staff,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “As well as providing the TV channel with better protection, the authorities must take measures to prevent men armed with weapons of war from circulating in the capital. “We also totally reject the justification given by this attack’s instigators. The media are not military targets and the use of armed violence against them can only be described as horrifying attacks on media freedom.” ARY News journalist Kashif Abbasi had previously told colleagues that he had received threatening phone calls from the western region of Waziristan, in which the callers criticized him for not covering the Taliban’s activities in the region. The armed attack on ARY News, the first against a Pakistani media outlet in 2016, came just five weeks after a homemade bomb attack on the Express News bureau in Sargodha, in Punjab province, that injured a security guard and damaged one of the TV channel’s vehicles. Regarded as a liberal news organization, Express News had been the target of previous attacks that were claimed by the Taliban. According to some journalists, Pakistan’s extremist groups are stepping up their attacks on the media with the aim of getting them to resume covering their operations. The security forces often order the Pakistani media not to cover the activities of militant and terrorist groups. Ranked 159th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan is one of the pilot countries of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.