News

April 21, 2021

Pakistani journalist critical of the military wounded by gunfire

Absar Alam recorded in a short video on his way to the hospital. He said: “My message to those who did this is that I am not going to be scared by such tactics.”
Absar Alam, a prominent journalist, was shot in broad daylight near his home. He has faced threats because of his strongly critical stance toward the government and the military. Given that background, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demands a completely independent investigation of this shocking attack.

Alam narrowly escaped death after being shot on 20 April, while he was walking in a park near his home in Islamabad, Pakistan’s federal capital. A bullet hit him in the side, damaging his liver. He was immediately hospitalized and is in stable condition, according to Gharidah Farooqi, who was with him at the hospital.

 

In a short video recorded on his way to the hospital, Alam recounted the attack. He concluded: “My message to those who did this is that I am not going to be scared by such tactics.” The shooter, who was apparently alone, managed to escape.

 

“It is deeply shocking that a prominent journalist like Absar Alam was targeted in broad daylight, in the heart of Pakistan’s capital, and that his attacker was able to vanish into thin air,” said Daniel Bastard, the RSF Asia-Pacific director. “We call on Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed to pledge that the investigation he has ordered be carried out by a completely independent team, in order to end the cycle of impunity for crimes against journalists in Pakistan. The credibility of the rule of law is at stake.”

 

Acerbic critic

 

An award-winning journalist who has worked in broadcast media for 20 years, Alam was director of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, (PEMRA) an oversight agency, in 2013-2018, when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister. Alam and Sharif are said to be close.

 

Later, Alam became known as a fierce critic of the all-powerful Pakistani military, and of the current civilian government, which is backed by the military establishment. Consequently, he has become a regular target of online threats.

 

Last month, Alam was summoned by the Federal Investigation Agency, the civilian branch of the country’s intelligence services, following social media posts said to reflect “anti-state rhetoric.” The Islamabad High Court suspended the summons.

 

Pakistan is ranked 145th of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index.