The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply alarmed by the continued killings of journalists in Pakistan, including four in May so far, and calls on Pakistan authorities to immediately investigate these incidents, hold those responsible to account, and end the wave of violence against journalists in the country.

The killings represent the highest number of journalists killed in the South Asian country in any single month  since CPJ began collecting data in 1992.

On May 21, Nasrullah Gadani, a reporter for local Sindhi language newspaper Awami Awaz, was attacked by armed assailants in the Kori Goth area of the Ghotki district in Sindh province. He suffered critical gunshot wounds to his abdomen, according to Zia ur Rehman, a local journalist in Karachi who spoke to CPJ, and multiple media reports. Gadani died in a Karachi hospital on May 24.

On the same day, Kamran Dawar, a journalist based in the North Waziristan district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was killed by unidentified assailants in front of his home in Tappi village, according to multiple media reports.

And earlier in May, journalists Ashfaq Ahmad Sial and Muhmmad Siddique Mengal were killed in separate attacks in Pakistan’s Punjab and Baluchistan provinces.  

CPJ has not yet been able to confirm whether their killings were related to their work.  

Separately, on May 22, Syed Iqrar ul Hassan, a prominent TV anchor with ARY News, and his three team members were attacked by a group of people in Gujranwala city in Punjab province. Hassan and his team sustained minor injuries, according to media reports and the independent media non-profit, the Pakistan Press Foundation

“Pakistani authorities must immediately investigate the brutal killings of journalists Nasrullah Gadani and Kamran Dawar, and other journalists killed and attacked, and make the findings public swiftly,” said CPJ Asia Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif must take steps to end the alarming rise in killings of journalists across Pakistan and ensure protection for media workers at both the national and local levels.” 

The News International reported that Sindh police have arrested at least three suspects in connection with Gadani’s killing. The journalist, who disseminated news reports through social media, was known for his bold investigations into local feudal lords, political personalities, influential landowners and government officers, according to the independent Dawn.

In a video that went viral on social media, Gadani was seen riding a motorcycle alongside a convoy of a landlord escorted by police. Speaking in the Sindhi language, he was heard saying that a landlord was being escorted by police. Some followers of the journalist believe the video may have been a motive for the attack, according to the non-profit Freedom Network, but investigating police have not given an official cause.

Dawar, a freelance journalist who also ran the popular Waziristan TV on Facebook with 148,000 followers, had covered social issues on his digital outlet. Mohsen Dawar, a former Member of Parliament from Waziristan, said that the journalist faced threats against his life “for his critical views against militancy.” However, according to News Intervention, Dawar regularly voiced his criticisms of the Pakistani military on his social media platforms. The identities of the assailants and the motive for Dawar’s killing remain unknown.   

In Hassan’s case, attackers assaulted him and his team members with stones and sticks, threw acid on his vehicle, and smashed their car windows when he, his producer, assistant producer and cameraman arrived at the university in Gujranwala where he was scheduled to attend an event, Hassan told CPJ via messaging app. 

The attackers also chanted slogans in support of a local man who describes himself as a spiritual healer and whom Hassan had covered in his TV shows, the journalist said. In a first information police report on May 24, Hassan’s driver accused the local man of inciting the mob violence against Hassan, as reviewed by CPJ.

More than two months earlier, on March 8, unknown armed men attacked Hassan’s house in Lahore, but no one was hurt in the incident, according to Aaj TV. Hassan is a prominent anchor with 7.1 million followers on X, formerly Twitter, and 1.35 million followers on YouTube. He had previously survived an attack in 2020, suffering minor injuries.

Since 1992, 64 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in Pakistan. The country was 11th on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries by how often killers of journalists go unpunished. Pakistan has appeared on the index every year since the Index’s inception.

The Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment.