Journalist's Killing Unites Pakistan's Media

Jun 21, 2011
Originally published on June 21, 2011 5:36 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the government to investigate the murder of a Pakistani journalist who was looking into links between al-Qaida and that country's navy. As a national furor arose over the killing, another Pakistani journalist was dragged out of his car and beaten by men in police uniforms. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Islamabad that the two cases have rallied journalists who suspect the state is complicit in the violence.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Group: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: At least 16 journalists have been killed in the last 18 months, earning Pakistan the distinction as the world's most dangerous country for reporters. Last week, at a 24-hour sit-in across from Parliament, journalists assembled to say this time would be different.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTORS)

MCCARTHY: Hamid Mir, a prominent television anchor, says journalists are killed by the Taliban and the state. Mir says fake promises to investigate the Shahzad case mobilized the news media.

HAMID MIR: We are sure that intelligence agencies are responsible for the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. That's why the government is not ready to provide us justice. That's why we are on the roads and we will keep protesting until the culprits are brought to the justice.

MCCARTHY: This past week, he and the Guardian decided that his three-year-old ordeal, which had not been previously published, was now safe to reveal. Waqar appeared on television, recounting his torture at the hands of men he suspected were intelligence agents. He told NPR about being burned with cigarettes and taunted by his captors.

WAQAR KIANI: While One was saying, Okay, let's cut his hands so that he couldn't write again. One was saying, just leave everything, just kill him and throw him into the river, and finish the story. So at that time, I was thinking that I'll be killed.

MCCARTHY: On Saturday night, just days after his story was made public, Waqar was yanked from his Toyota on a dark street in Islamabad and savagely beaten.

KIANI: At that night, I was not able to stand up and even not able to walk.

MCCARTHY: How long did this go on? How many minutes did this last?

KIANI: It was the duration of five to seven minutes, maybe. I mean continuous beating. During the beating, they asked me: Do you want to become a hero? Now we'll make you a hero and we'll set you an example. We'll make you an example.

MCCARTHY: Waqar says authorities have now offered him protection in the form of guards.

KIANI: But I can't trust those police guards. What happened to Salman Taseer?

MCCARTHY: The governor of the Punjab who was killed by his own bodyguard in January.

KIANI: Yeah, bodyguard. What happened to Salman Taseer? And if something happens to me tomorrow, who will suffer, only my family - my wife and my children.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy NPR News, Islamabad,

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