Pakistani Taliban Claims Responsibility for Killing VOA Reporter

Posted January 17th, 2012 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for killing a local reporter working for the Voice of America.

The Associated Press quotes the group's spokesman as saying they killed Mukarram Khan Aatif, who also worked for the private Pakistani Dunya TV, because he ignored multiple warnings to stop anti-Taliban reporting.

Pakistani officials said Aatif was shot dead by two assailants while attending Tuesday evening prayers in a mosque in Shabqadar, a small town in the country's northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Voice of America condemned the murder and urged local authorities to do more to protect journalists.

VOA Director David Ensor said “Mr. Aatif risked his life on a daily basis to provide his audience with fair and balanced news from this critical region.”

Walter Isaacson, the Chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, said the board “condemns the murder of this courageous reporter in the strongest possible terms.” Isaacson added that “Aatif's targeted assassination is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our journalists on a daily basis.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the group mourns the death of Aatif who, “despite fleeing his hometown, could find no safe sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless landscape for journalists.” CPJ Asia coordinator Bob Dietz said that “until Pakistani authorities take effective steps to investigate the murders of journalists and bring those responsible to justice, journalists must band together and plan for their common defense.”

Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told VOA the government will conduct a “thorough and transparent” investigation into the incident, promising financial assistance to the victim's family.

Critics say Pakistani security agencies are behind deadly attacks on journalists, as well as militants. They say the failure of the Pakistani authorities to bring elements involved in such attacks to justice has emboldened those fearful of increasingly independent media.

For two years in a row, Reporters Without Borders named Pakistan as the deadliest country for journalists, with 10 killed there in 2011.