Deadly Week for Journalists in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — Unidentified assailants in Pakistan have within the past week killed two journalists and tortured a renowned columnist, while police arrested a reporter-anchor-turned-host of a top YouTube political show amid allegations of a government crackdown on dissent and political opponents. The attacks began on July 1 when gunmen in Khairpur district in southern Sindh province fatally shot local reporter Ishtiaq Sodharo. The slain man was associated with a local Sindhi-language weekly. His wife accused an area police officer of ordering the deadly attack against her husband. The motive for the killing was not known. A day later, Iftikhar Ahmed, a reporter for the Urdu-language national Daily Express, was ambushed and killed by unknown gunmen in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province while he was on his way to work. Police said an investigation was underway into the motive for Ahmed’s killing, including personal enmity. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Tuesday condemned the killings, calling on Pakistani authorities to safeguard press freedom in line with their constitutional and international obligations. “Pakistan's government must take appropriate measures to ensure journalists' safety and security, as required by law, and act to reduce assaults on journalists so that they may carry out their work without fear,” the IFJ said in a statement. On Friday, veteran journalist and political analyst Ayaz Amir was physically assaulted by masked men in the eastern city of Lahore. He was being driven home after his prime-time program on the mainstream Dunya news channel when his car was intercepted. The 72-year-old nationally known journalist told reporters that the attackers “unleashed blows to my face and dragged me out of the vehicle” on a busy road near his workplace. Amir alleged the masked assailants also "tore his clothes” before taking away his and his driver’s cellphones. There were no claims of responsibility for any of the attacks.