News

October 12, 2021

TV journalist killed by targeted bomb attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan province

Local journalist Shahid Zehri (on the left) died after a targeted bombing in the town of Hub, on the 10th October (credit: DR / Dunya News).
A separatist armed group in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan province has claimed the targeted bombing of a TV reporter in the town of Hub, saying he was “eliminated” for spying. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities identify those responsible and bring them to trial.

Shahid Zehri, a reporter for local TV channel Metro One News, was driving in his car with a companion on the evening of 10 October and had just made a U-turn to avoid a traffic jam when a bomb left under his seat exploded, injuring him critically. He was rushed to a local hospital in Hub, and then to a bigger hospital in nearby Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, where he died of his injuries.

 

Zehri’s murder was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist rebel group regarded as a terrorist organisation by the Pakistani government and several other countries including the United States.

 

“In the operation, carried out by BLA’s Special Tactical Operational Squad, Pakistani agent Shahid Zehri was eliminated, while his vehicle was completely destroyed,” a BLA spokesman said in an Urdu-language statement seen by RSF. The BLA offered no evidence for its claim that Zehri was an “agent.”

 

“It is intolerable that separatist rebels are able, with impunity, to claim the right to kill journalists in a completely arbitrary manner,” RSF spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével said. “This targeted bombing constitutes a clear threat from the rebels to all journalists who still dare to cover the highly sensitive situation in this region. We urge the local authorities to investigate this bomb attack as quickly as possible in order to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.”

 

Attacks from all sides

 

Although Zehri covered the volatile situation in Balochistan for Metro One News, there had been no indication that he might be targeted. “He was not working on any special story assigned by us and he had not informed us regarding any threat,” the TV channel’s news director, Buland Iqbal, told RSF.

 

Hub serves as the gateway from Sindh province into Balochistan, where separatists and paramilitaries have been embroiled in clashes for years, with dangerous consequences for its journalists.

 

“Journalists in Balochistan are under attack from all sides, all of which accuse journalists of acting as ‘agents’ for the other side,” RSF was told on condition of anonymity by a journalist in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital.

 

Zehri is the third journalist to be killed in Balochistan in the past 15 months. Anwar Jan Kethran, a reporter for the Naveed-e-Pakistan daily newspaper, was shot dead by two gunmen in the city of Barkhan in July 2020, after exposing local corruption. Abdul Wahid Raisani, an sub-editor with the Daily Azadi newspaper, was gunned down in unclear circumstances in Quetta in April 2021. RSF has not yet been able to determine whether his murder was linked to his journalistic work and is still awaiting the results of the judicial investigation to reach a decision.

 

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