Pakistani authorities must immediately investigate the killing of journalist Ashfaq Ahmed Sial, ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, and take steps to prevent the ongoing violence against journalists in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On the morning of Wednesday, May 15, two masked motorcyclists shot Sial, a reporter for the Daily Khabrain newspaper, while he was on his way to work in Muzaffargarh, a city in central Punjab province, before fleeing the scene, according to local nonprofit Freedom Network and news reports. Sial was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

The motive behind Sial’s killing was unclear. Punjab province’s Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz ordered those responsible be brought to justice, and the Punjab police have filed a First Information Report, which opens an investigation.

On May 3, Muhammad Siddique Mengal, president of the local Khuzdar Press Club and journalist for the local newspaper The Daily Baakhbar Quetta, died after a motorcyclist placed a bomb on the journalist’s vehicle at a busy crossing in Khuzdar city, in southwestern Baluchistan province.

“Pakistani authorities must transparently and promptly investigate the killing of journalist Ashfaq Ahmed Sial and determine whether it was linked to his journalism,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi. “This is the second case of a journalist being killed in Pakistan in the last two weeks. The Pakistani government must prevent this cycle of violence against journalists and ensure their protection.”

The Punjab police did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment via email.

On March 14, another Daily Khabrain journalist, Jam Saghir Ahmed Lar, was shot and killed in Khanpur, Punjab province.

Pakistan continues to be a perilous environment for journalists, with increasing risk for those who critically report on powerful entities, the military establishment, corruption among public officials, and crime. 

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 its inception.