In the line of duty: Journalist Irshad Mastoi, reporter shot dead

Irshad Mastoi

BALOCHISTAN: Senior journalist and Secretary General of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) Irshad Mastoi, trainee reporter Abdul Rasul and an accountant of a news agency were gunned down in Quetta’s Kabir Building on Thursday.

According to SHO Bijli Road police station, two armed men barged into the office of the news distribution agency Online News and opened fire at the people inside. “Senior journalist Irshad Mastoi, trainee reporter Abdul Rasul and accountant Mohammed Younus were shot in the head and chest. All died on the spot,” said SHO Hashim Shah.

The office of the news agency is located on the second storey of the Kabir Building near Jinnah Road, in downtown Quetta. The assailants managed to flee from the scene after carrying out the gruesome attacks.

The dead bodies were shifted to Provincial Sandeman Hospital where doctors pronounced them dead on arrival.

Irshad Mastoi, 34, was among the veteran journalists in Balochistan and wrote for local and national newspapers. Abdul Rasul, who was in his early 20s, had recently become a trainee reporter for the news agency. “It was a targeted attack and the target was these journalists,” an official said.

Rasul was a student in his final year at the Media and Journalism Department of the University of Balochistan Quetta. Journalists and relatives of the victims rushed to the hospital after hearing about the incident. The dead bodies were handed over to heirs after legal formalities.

Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual report in February. Four of the seven reporters killed on duty worked in Balochistan, RSF said. Not a single murder was investigated.

“There is no security for journalists in Balochistan. We lost our many friends but not a single perpetrator of the crime was booked. We are facing constant threats to our lives,” Mastoi had said on several occasions during protests held by the BUJ.

“The gruesome attack saddened all the journalists. I do not have the words to express our grief,” said Irfan Saeed, President of Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ).

The Balochistan government issued a statement condemning the deadly attack on journalists. “The Balochistan government stands by journalists in this difficult time,” Jan Buledi said in his statement.

A few months ago, Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Malik Baloch had announced the formation of a judicial tribunal to investigate the killings of journalists in Balochistan. However, this has yet to be implemented. “The frequent deadly attacks on journalists in Balochistan negatively impacted their work,” said Irfan Saeed. “The killers were carrying out attacks with complete impunity.”

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and other journalist organizations strongly condemned the attack and demanded that the government arrest the culprits.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.

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