Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an all-out investigation into the murder of Mirza Waseem Baig, a reporter for the 92 News TV channel, who was gunned down in the state of Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, after covering the activities of a criminal gang specializing in extortion.
Based in Sarai Alamgir, 120 km southeast of Islamabad, Baig died while being taken to hospital after being shot six times at close range by three men outside his home on 30 August.
The police officer in charge of the investigation, Ameer Abbas, told RSF that Baig was killed because of his coverage of this gang. “He did several reports about them that annoyed them, so they killed him and then fled,” he said. This was confirmed by his wife, Safia Waseem, who told RSF that she and her family had been obliged to move to a safer location after receiving threats in the wake of his murder.
Baig’s killers are reportedly linked to a gang specializing in extorting money from local elected officials, a gang that Baig had covered in a series of reports that are still available on his Facebook page.
“We call on Punjab’s chief minister to deploy whatever resources are needed to find those who instigated this shocking murder,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We also urge the federal government and parliament to lose no time in finalizing a law guaranteeing the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity, in order to end the spiral of violence to which reporters are exposed in Pakistan.”
Another journalist, Zafar Abbas, was found murdered at the bottom of a well in Punjab province on 11 September, four days after going missing. The investigation into his murder is currently stalled. At least three other journalists have been murdered in connection with their work in Punjab since the start of 2019.
Via its local partner, Freedom Network, RSF has contributed to the creation of several “Safety Hubs” for journalists throughout Pakistan to help offset the inadequacies of the protection they receive from the Pakistani authorities. Consisting of local journalists, these hubs are intended to provide appropriate assistance to journalists who feel threatened because of their work
Pakistan is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index