Killed while praying in Pakistan

Killed while praying in Pakistan

Mukarram Aatif is the first journalist killed in Pakistan this year. In 2010 and 2011, Pakistan was the world's most dangerous country for reporters.
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Mukarram Khan Aatif's body being examined after the shooting. AFP image.

Gunmen on January 17 shot dead a Pakistani journalist working for the Voice of America's Pashto-language radio service as he prayed at a mosque in the northwest of the country, according to reports.

Mukarram Khan Aatif, a 43-year-old correspondent with Deewa radio, was attacked at a mosque near his home in Shabqadar town, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Peshawar.

Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing. 

The group confirmed their involvement in a telephone call to AFP and threatened other journalists with the same fate.

"The two attackers came on a motorbike, fired bullets at Aatif in the mosque and escaped. He suffered bullet wounds to the head," local police officer Zahir Shah told AFP.

Another police official confirmed the incident.

"Aatif was hit in the head and rushed to a hospital in Peshawar. The prayer leader was also injured," said district police chief Nisar Khan Marwat.

Rahim Jan, a senior doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, said Aatif had died of his injuries.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the Islamist militia killed Aatif because he was "working for the Pakistani military and the United States".

"We warned him many times not to work for them, but he didn't accept our demand," the spokesman told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location, warning: "Many other journalists are also now a target."

Local authorities must ‘do more to protect journalists’

At Voice of America headquarters in Washington, the news outlet condemned the killing and urged local authorities "to do more to protect journalists".

Aatif had been working for Deewa Radio since 2006, the VOA said in a statement.

"Mr. Aatif risked his life on a daily basis to provide his audience with fair and balanced news from this critical region and we mourn the loss of our colleague," said VOA Director David Ensor.

"The targeted assassination of Mr. Aatif is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our journalists on a daily basis," added Walter Isaacson, chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency responsible for US government non-military broadcasting.

Aatif also reported for local TV stations in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area, a region where Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are active, the VOA said.

The world's most dangrous country for reporters

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Pakistan was the deadliest country for the media in 2011 with at least seven journalists killed in connection with their work.

The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) puts the number of killings far higher. In its annual report received by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, 20 journalists were reported to have been killed last year.

"Terrorism, religious extremism, sectarian violence and alarming security situation of Pakistan demands strict safety measures for journalists," said the RMNP report. "They put their life in danger to cover different assignments."

CPJ put the number of killings in Pakistan during 2010 at seven.

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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