Four gunmen on two motorcycles shot dead three Express TV media workers and injured a fourth in the North Nazimabad suburb of Karachi on January 17 – http://www.cpj.org/2014/01/three-media-workers-killed-in-attack-on-express-tv.php.
This was the third attack on the media group’s employees in six months. In August, terrorists opened fire on their office in Karachi, injuring two workers, and in December again there was a similar attack in which two guards were injured.
No arrests have been made in connection with any of these offences. But Pakistan Taliban (TTP) former spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the January 17 murders.
Unbelievably, the very day of the murders, Express TV invited the notorious Ehsan to appear live debating them with Javaid Chaudhry, a senior Express columnist. He said that if the media wouldn’t change its attitude, the TTP would keep attacking them. The two men struck a deal on air, that the TTP would stop killing Express workers on condition that the Group gave air time to the TTP’s extremist views.
Another TTP spokesman Sajjad Mohmand rammed the point home in a call to Reuters, saying: “We will continue to target the media if they do not stop propaganda against Islam and the Taliban.”
Up to now, the Express Group has been respected as a voice of mainstream Pakistani opinion, and in particular until recently it has regularly reported terrorist atrocities. The majority of the assassinations and massacres of 675 Shia Muslims in 2013 were reported in the Express Tribune, for instance, though towards the end of the year, killings of Shia professionals were increasingly ignored.
The despicable bargain made by the Express with a leading terrorist provides no protection for the paper itself or the Pakistan media as a whole. It sends a message to journalists and their editors that if they fail to cover the terrorist ideology of the TTP – and their murderous allies the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat – they can expect to be gunned down in the street and in their offices.
Already Pakistan was one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists, with 53 murdered since 1992. In the past decade, not one suspect has been prosecuted for any of the 23 journalists killed. The assassins who killed the Express workers can be confident of escaping justice; and if they do get arrested, they can expect to be released after a short interval as usually happens.
The Express capitulation to the TTP’s threats will also embolden the terrorists, who will see that nowadays, murdering newsmen is the best way of silencing their critics. To add to the sense that Pakistan is under the thumb of the extremists, in the few cases when the assassins are arrested, they are almost invariably freed after a short interval without any judicial process.
In the latest case, a month ago, a judge in Gilgit released five terrorists accused of torturing and killing at least nine Shias they identified from buses stopped near Chilas on April 3, 2012. They had been incited to this crime by Maulana Muzamil Shah, who was freed with the murderers, so the courts, as well as the press, are being silenced.
These cases, and many others, are being raised by peers with the UN Special Rapporteurs on Religious Freedom and on Extrajudicial Executions.