Protests were staged in several cities on Friday over the brutal killing of Irshad Mastoi, the general secretary of the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) who was shot dead on Thursday along with a trainee reporter, Abdul Rasul, and an accountant, Muhammad Younus, at their news agency’s office in Quetta. Mastoi was laid to rest in his ancestral town in Jacobabad district; funeral prayers for Rasul were held in Sibi and Younus was buried in Quetta.
In Quetta, journalists wore black armbands and hoisted a black flag atop the press club building in protest of the killings. “Armed men barged into the office of Online News Agency and opened fire,” said members of the BUJ. “The attackers just walked out of the building and escaped unchallenged. Our blood is not that cheap.” More than 40 journalists have been killed in the line of duty over the last six to seven years and not a single case has been fully investigated, the BUJ said.
BUJ Vice President Nasee Yusufzai said the police did not allow the bodies to be taken to the hospital after the attack. “Abdul Rasul was breathing for 45 minutes and his life could have been saved but the police arrived on the scene after an hour and didn’t allow anyone to take the victims to hospital,” he said.
City police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema submitted a report of the incident in a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Balochistan and attended by Home Secretary Akbar Durrani, FC, police and law enforcing agencies officials.
“Nine casings of a 9mm pistol were recovered from the crime scene. Mastoi was shot in head, chest and mouth. The young reporter Abdul Rasul received a bullet in his chest while Muhammad Younus was shot in the head,” Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told The Express Tribune. He added that an investigation is under way and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. “A masked man was waiting downstairs while another went upstairs to the office. The killer first talked with the bureau chief of Online news agency then opened fire,” he said.
Journalists in Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Chaghi, Badin, Sakrand, Rahimyar Khan, Hyderabad, Larkana, Jacobabad and Gwadar also protested against Mastoi’s killing.
“This deadly attack is meant to suppress the voice of the media,” said Gwadar press club president Gwaharam Baloch. “These criminals operate with impunity in Balochistan and routinely target media workers.” Political party workers and members of civil society also joined the protests.
“CM Dr Abdul Malik Baloch announced a judicial inquiry into the killings of journalists in Balochistan about four months ago. However, the judicial commission has not been formed yet,” said Quetta press club president Razaur Rehman.
“The attackers gave a clear message that they can kill you by barging inside your home or office,” said PFUJ vice president Saleem Shahid. Veteran journalist Anwar Sajidi commented that if murders of journalists go unchallenged, younger people will be discouraged from joining the profession.
The BUJ demanded that SHO, DSP and SP be suspended for negligence and law enforcement agencies arrest those responsible for the murders. An FIR has been registered at Bijli Road police station against unknown persons.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.
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