Category: Press Releases, Asia & Pacific, Asia, Pakistan
By: Carolin Dürkop, IPI contributor

Express News bureau chief attacked in Peshawar

Pakistan-based News group becomes target of violence


Pakistani journalists chant slogans during a protest against bomb blasts in Quetta and condemn killings of members of the media, outside the press club in Karachi January 11, 2013. The banner reads in Urdu "we wholeheartedly salute our martyr brothers". REUTERS/Athar Hussain

By: Carolin Dürkop, IPI contributor

VIENNA, April 7, 2014 – Unidentified individuals attacked the house of Jamshed Baghwan, bureau chief of Express News in Peshawar, yesterday at approximately 6:25 a.m. leaving the main gate damaged.

The Express Tribune Opens external link in new windowreported that two masked men riding on a motorcycle threw a hand grenade at the gate of the house. Police reportedly arrived at the site of the incident quickly to collect evidence and an investigation is currently underway.

The motivation for the attack was unclear. This was the second attack on Jamshed Baghwan in less than a month. On March 19, a medium-intensity explosive device was located outside his house and disposed of by the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS). 

Local journalist organisations have expressed concern about the attacks against Express News and the Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) today staged a demonstration calling on the government to increase protection for journalists to ensure their safety.

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New attack on Pakistan Express News

IPI interviews PPI Chairman Owais Aslam Al on the reasons behind the attack

VIENNA, March 4, 2013 - On March 28, veteran Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi was a victim of a shooting attack in Lahore. The editor of the weekly Friday Times, and anchor for the news show Khabar Se Agay on Express News TV, is known for his coverage of politics and extremism in the region.

Rumi and his guard were injured and his driver, the 25-year-old Muhammad Mustafa, was killed in the attack. It was not immediately known who was behind the attack nor the motivation.

This is the fifth attack on the Express Media Group in the past 12 months, the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) reported. In the most serious attack, three staff members were killed and one injured in January in a shooting attack on a Digital Satellite News Gathering van belonging to Express News TV in Karachi.  Soon after the attack, Ehsanullah Ehsan, the then-spokesman for the Parkistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the assault in a statement broadcast live on Express TV.

PPF quoted Ehsan as saying that the Pakistani media were broadcasting “venomous propaganda against Tehreek-e-Taliban. They have assumed the [role of] opposition.”

In an interview with IPI’s Carolin Durkop, IPI Board Member Owais Ali, chairman of the Pakistan Press International and Pakistan Press Foundation, explains what journalists face in Pakistan and puts Rumi’s attack in perspective.

I understand that the attack against Raza Rumi is the latest in a series of attacks against the Express Media Group. Can you tell us more about previous attacks?

It was the fifth attack on Express Media Group in 2013-14.

On March 19, 2014, a bomb was found outside Express News Peshawar Bureau Chief Jamshed Baghwan's house in Murshadabad area of Peshawar.

On January 17, 2014, three Express Media Group employees were killed in a gun attack in Karachi.

On December 2, 2013, the attackers threw two tennis balls having explosive material at the main entrance of office building in Karachi and opened fire on the building resulting in injury to Salman Fazili of the marketing department, and security guard Faizan Ali [was] injured.

On August 11, 2013, four armed men on two motorcycles fired around

30-40 bullets at the main gate of office building in Karachi, injured the security guard and a female marketing staff member.

Do you think that there is a specific intention of targeting the Express News as a consequence of their coverage? Is there speculation about who may be behind these attacks?

Express Group is considered to be liberal and Pakistan is passing through a period of intense militancy. The attack on Express Group personnel in Karachi, which claimed three lives, was claimed by the Taliban.  No one has claimed responsibility for the newest attack, and the situation can become clear if the government was to investigate these attacks with seriousness and sincerity.  The attacks took place in front of witnesses and there are CTV camera images in cases of attacks on offices of Express Group in Karachi.  Why then is it so difficult to catch the assailants?

Talking to PPF, Raza Rumi very rightly said that as freedom of expression is central to democracy, by allowing bullets to muzzle [the] press, the elected governments are encouraging threats democracy itself.

Do you know of any steps taken by the Express Media Group to protect their journalists? If yes, have they been effective?

Large media houses like the Express Group have taken a number of steps including increasing security [at] their offices and [for] their key personnel including anchors.  Raza Rumi himself was provided with armed guards, but no amount of security is enough to provide foolproof safety from someone determined to cause harm. To do their job, journalists have to go to where the action is. The only way to improve the safety of journalists is to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.

Do you think that the overall press freedom and journalist safety situation in Pakistan has been deteriorating over the past 12 months?

Yes, the situation of safety of journalists continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate.  Those who want to harm and threaten media seem to be able to do it at will without any fear of being caught. The government seems content with merely issuing statements condemning violence against media and seems unable and unwilling to take any meaningful step to end the cycle of deadly violence. 

I understand that numerous civil society organisations, including PPF, have been pushing for the implementation of specific programmes that would lead to greater protection for journalists. Are any of these programmes being implemented already? Have you seen any positive results?

Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety [PCOMS] is an initiative launched in June 2013 to promote prioritisation [of] safety issues …  While action by all stakeholders is important, the key to promoting safety lies in effective administrative and legal action by federal and state governments in Pakistan to end the near absolute impunity enjoyed by those who attack media organisations and personnel.

>> For more information, contact IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi at +43 (1) 512 90 11 or by Opens window for sending emailemail.