Freedom Network [FN] joins families, colleagues and friends of journalist Irshad Mastoi, reporter Abdur Rasool and media assistant Muhammad Younas in mourning their brutal murder in the office of Online news agency in Quetta, provincial capital of violence-hit Balochistan where journalism has become the deadliest profession to pursue.
“Our deep condolences go out to the grieved families and share the grief felt all over the country as a result of these senseless killings which make again a point for how long Pakistan will continue to experience impunity of crimes against media,” FN, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization monitoring freedom of expression, freedom of press and online freedom, said 29 August 2014 (Friday) in its press freedom alert.
“Balochistan is proving graveyard for journalism,” FN press freedom alert said. “Baloch journalists are in line of fire in particular and no concerted efforts have so far been seen to believe that the government is as sensitive about the situation as journalists and press freedom supporters and organizations,” the alert feared.
“The insensitivity of the government is encouraging elements attacking media and impunity of crimes will continue to take more lives of journalists. We demand independent investigation to reach the hands which committed the Thursday’s heinous crimes.”
Irshad Mastoi, 37, bureau chief of Online news agency and assignment editor of ARY News channel, young Abdul Rasool, reporter, and Muhammad Younas, office accountant, died on the spot when unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets with semi-automatic rifles on 28 August 2014.
Reporter Abdul Rasool was final year student at the Mass Ccommunication Department of the Balochistan University and joined Online news agency recently as reporter after doing three-month internship with Geo News channel in Quetta, his grieved colleagues confided to FN.
Quetta police chief Razaq Cheema told local media after gruesome killings: “All the victims received multiple bullets.”
The Thursday attack is the second in three days leaving two journalists (in Quetta) and one TV producer (in Karachi) killed raising the total death toll of journalists and media men killed in 2014 to seven so far.
Baloch journalist Irshad Mastoi was also serving Balochistan Union of Journalists as general secretary and his close colleagues say his murder was related to his journalism. “He was under fire from both Baloch insurgent groups and government intelligence agencies,” said a colleague wishing not to be named.
“I am under great deal of pressure from both sides,” Mastoi had told RSF representative in March 2012 in Quetta. “Baloch groups want me to run their news as it is and if I do it then the Pakistani intelligence agencies get annoyed and hurl veiled threats. Very difficult to balance act in the given situation,” he went on to add.
The third force equally threatening journalists in Balochistan is sectarian groups involved in bloody killings in the province, Mastoi said. “The sectarian groups are as dangerous as other two are. The sectarian groups have own demands to make as they want you to report their press releases as they are which we cannot because they need editing and these groups say their press releases should not be edited.”
The Baloch insurgent groups, he said, were interested in dissemination of their news through wire service to reach maximum newsrooms across the country.
He started his career as reporter with a local paper and worked at Mashriq newspaper also before joining Online news agency as bureau chief.
Quetta-based journalists say more than 30 journalists were killed in Balochistan for last one decade and accused was arrested to get justice done.
A senior journalist in Quetta said the attackers could have killed him anywhere in Quetta but choosing the wire service office to take Mastoi out suggested they wanted to send the wire service a message also.
Quetta, provincial capital of Balochistan, is major centre of journalistic activities and journalists were threatened and harassed but never physically harmed in the city.
The office of Online is situated in the main crowded bazaar in Quetta and the area falls in “high security zone,” and the attackers were able to escape unchallenged.
Police and paramilitary force Frontier Corps personnel reached the site of the attack after the gunmen fled starting initial investigation into the incident.
Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) condemned the incident and termed it an attack on freedom of expression. BUJ president Irfan Saeed announced a three-day mourning.
Mostoi was laid to rest in native district Jackabad in Sindh province while Abdur Rasool in Sibbi district in Balochistan. Muhammad Younas was laid to rest in Quetta.
Caption: Late Irshad Mastoi
Image courtesy: Google Images