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Bomb blast kills Pakistani journalist on World Press Freedom Day

A bomb killed three people in the Khuzdar district of Baluchistan, Pakistan, on May 3, 2024. One of the victims was journalist Siddique Mengal.
A bomb killed three people in the Khuzdar district of Baluchistan, Pakistan, on May 3, 2024. One of the victims was journalist Siddique Mengal.

A bomb blast in southwestern Pakistan ripped through the car of a regional journalist Friday, killing him and two passersby on World Press Freedom Day.

Local police said that the afternoon attack in the Khuzdar district of Baluchistan province injured seven people, mostly passersby. They identified the slain journalist as Siddique Mengal, the district press club president, and said he apparently was the target.

Ghulam Mustafa Rind, an area police officer, told VOA by phone that Mengal was wheeling slowly through a busy crossing when an unidentified motorcyclist attached a homemade magnetic bomb to his vehicle.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office said in a statement that he “expressed deep sorrow and grief over the martyrdom” of Mengal.

No group immediately claimed reasonability for the bombing in natural resources-rich Baluchistan, which has lately experienced almost daily attacks mostly claimed by ethnic Baluch insurgents. Militants loyal to the Islamic State terrorist group and the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, are also active in the province.

Pakistani security forces are also accused of targeting critics of their counterinsurgency operations in the province with attacks and enforced disappearances.

Friday’s attack is yet another instance of the dangers that journalists face in their line of work in Pakistan, both from government forces and militants. Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, which promotes press freedom globally, lists Pakistan as “one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with three to four murders each year that are often linked to cases of corruption or illegal trafficking and which go completely unpunished.”

RSF’s annual World Press Freedom Index, released Friday, dropped Pakistan’s ranking from 150 to 152 in 2024, indicating a worsening situation for press freedom in the country. The index assesses the level of freedom available to journalists and media outlets in various countries.

Death threats

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, on Friday urged Pakistan to immediately investigate death threats and online harassment targeting a prominent television anchor, Hamid Mir.

The global press freedom advocate said in a statement that Mir, who hosts the flagship political show “Capital Talk” on Geo News and has survived at least two previous assassination attempts, told CPJ that he had received multiple death threats on social media and warnings that his life was in danger from two journalists familiar with the situation.

Mir, who has 8.4 million followers on his social media platform X, posted a video of Friday’s attack in Khuzdar, with an accompanying comment that suggested the violence could be “a message to all independent journalists” in Pakistan.

“The threats and online hate campaign against one of Pakistan’s most prominent television anchors illustrate the severity of intimidation and pressure faced by journalists in Pakistan,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ Asia program coordinator. She called on Pakistani security agencies to urgently act against those trying to silence Mir and hold them accountable.

Pakistan ranked 11th on CPJ’s 2023 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries by how often the killers of journalists go unpunished.

Sharif, in a statement on World Press Freedom Day, said that his government was determined to ensure the safety of Pakistani journalists, stating that freedom of expression "is the foundation of democracy and protection of civil rights."