An improvised explosive device that two men on a motorcycle left outside the home of Jamshed Baghwan, Express News TV’s Peshawar bureau chief, was defused yesterday by police before it could go off.
“We are relieved that Jamshed Baghwan and his family are safe, but we are very disturbed by what seems to have been yet another murder attempt against a journalist,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“Following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s announced creation of a commission for the protection of journalists, concrete measures must be taken as a matter of urgency to protect Baghwan and his family.”
Ismaïl added: “We also call on the authorities to assign human and material resources to protect other journalists and their families who have reported receiving threats. Amid so much violence, it is unacceptable that the police turn down journalists’ requests for protection, as they did with Ansar Naqvi of Geo News.”
Baghwan called the police immediately after discovering the explosive device, which had been left in a metal container outside the gate to his home. A bomb disposal unit dispatched by the police was able to defuse it.
Baghwan said he had received no threats. “This has frightened my family,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “I don’t understand who did this or why.”
The Express Media Group has repeatedly been targeted by the Islamist militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in recent months. A total of 22 shots were fired at Express News headquarters in Karachi on 16 August. Individuals on motorcycles threw homemade bombs and opened fire on its headquarters again on 2 December, injuring a guard and fleeing before police arrived.
In the most recent attack, three Express News TV employees were killed when gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on one of the TV station’s vehicles in Karachi on 17 January. All three attacks were claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which said it acted to combat the negative coverage it received from the media.
Reacting to all the violence against media personnel, the prime minister yesterday announced that he intended to set up a commission to recommend measures that the government could adopt to protect journalists in the field and ensure their well being.
The commission’s members would include journalists, he said, adding: “I want to make Pakistan a journalist-friendly country, where not only local but international media feel safe and secure during their professional assignments.”
Ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for the media, with a total of seven journalists killed in 2013.