Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, a reporter for privately-owned Express TV and its Urdu-language sister daily Express, was gunned down yesterday evening as he was returning from an interview with a Taliban leader in the Bajaur district of the Tribal Areas in northwestern Pakistan.
"It is becoming more and more difficult for journalists to work in the Tribal Areas because of the region’s growing instability, which is closely linked to the war in Afghanistan," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although the Pakistan government is unable to control the region, it should do everything possible to identity those responsible for this murder and bring them to justice."
Pakistani journalists shouting slogans against the killing of journalist Muhammad Ibrahim in Peshawar on May 23, 2008. (AFP)
Khan was killed shortly after interviewing Maulvi Umar, the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban Movement), in a secret location. Aged 44, he was returning to his home in Khar, the capital of Bajaur, by motorcycle when he was intercepted by men in a black car near Inayat Kalay (15 km outside Khar). Witnesses said his assailants took his mobile phone, camera and notes before shooting him and leaving his body at the roadside.
The local authorities said no one has claimed responsibility for the killing. It was condemned by the local leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who offered his condolences to the victim’s family. The speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Fahmida Mirza, expressed his grief about Khan’s murder.
It was also condemned by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists secretary-general Mazhar Abbas, who said Khan was killed "because of his work and his dedication" and called on the government to arrest and try those who did it. Journalists in Khar said his murder was the result of a "conspiracy" and they called on the authorities in the Tribal Areas to protect journalists.
Express TV’s Peshawar bureau chief, Jamshed Baghwan, told Reporters Without Borders that "no member of the Taliban, tribal groups or government ever complained about this journalist, who was very trustworthy and professional."
Two journalists working for privately-owned Aaj TV came under fire in Islamabad on 19 May but were not injured. The attack was not claimed.
The Taliban and other armed Islamic groups operating in the tribal areas on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been included in the Reporters Without Borders list of "Predators of Press Freedom" because of their repeated attacks on journalists.