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CPJ Condemns Attacks on Pak Journalists, Urges Govt to Bring Perpetrators to Justice

Attacks against journalists Ayaz Amir and Ahmed Shaheen underscored the significant dangers facing members of the press in Pakistan, CPJ said.

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New York: The Pakistan government must immediately investigate the recent attacks on two prominent journalists, ensure their safety, and hold the perpetrators accountable, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

The New York-based independent organisation promoting press freedom and defending the rights of journalists said in a statement on Thursday that attacks against journalists Ayaz Amir and Ahmed Shaheen underscored the significant dangers facing members of the press in Pakistan.

Unidentified men separately attacked Shaheen, the chief editor of the news website iNEWS, on June 30 and beat Amir, a senior analyst with the privately-owned broadcaster Dunya News, on July 1. Both attacks took place in Lahore, and police have launched investigations into the incidents, it said.

 “The attacks against journalists Ayaz Amir and Ahmed Shaheen underscore the significant dangers facing members of the press in Pakistan, which must be urgently addressed by the country’s new government,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, the CPJ programme director.

“Pakistan authorities must spare no effort in investigating the attacks against Amir and Shaheen, ensuring the safety, and holding the perpetrators accountable,” Serna said.

Shaheen told CPJ that he was driving in the Sui Gas area of Lahore when two men on a motorbike approached his car and one pointed a gun at him and ordered him to stop.

He pulled over and one of the men ordered him to hand over his phone and laptop. Shaheen hid his phone under his seat, but the other man smashed his backseat window and stole his computer. Shaheen said he thought the men were attempting to mug him and offered his wallet, but they refused to take it.

One of the men then grabbed Shaheen and repeatedly banged his head against the car window, resulting in heavy bleeding, and fired several gunshots in the journalist’s direction, which hit his car, he was quoted as saying in the statement.

One man then fled the scene on the motorbike and the other fled on foot, Shaheen said.

Two days before the attack, Shaheen alleged in a video for iNEWS that a high-ranking leader of the country’s legislative opposition had engaged in corruption. Shaheen has previously commented on the political crisis in Pakistan.

Separately, on the evening of July 1, unidentified individuals assaulted Amir in Lahore. The journalist was leaving the Dunya News office when a vehicle intercepted his car and blocked it from moving, the statement said.

A group of men then dragged Amir out of the vehicle, beat him, tore his clothes, and fled with his mobile phone and wallet as bystanders came to the scene.

Amir told CPJ that he sustained bruising on his face from the incident.

One day before the attack, Amir delivered a speech at a seminar, which was attended by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in which the journalist alleged that Khan had “handed over the country to property dealers,” and criticised the powerful army’s role in the country’s political affairs.

The journalist said that police have not provided any update on the investigation.

Imran Riaz Khan, another well-known journalist known for publicly supporting ex-prime minister Khan and a vocal critic of the powerful army, was arrested again on Thursday, hours after a local court ordered his release.

Khan was arrested near Islamabad by Punjab’s Attock district police on Tuesday night in a case filed against him last month for inciting violence and hatred.

He was presented before the court in Attock city on Wednesday and police asked for a three-day physical remand to probe him.

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