ISLAMABAD (Reuters)- An international press freedom group on Thursday asked Pakistan to investigate the deaths of seven Pakistani journalists as vigorously as it did the slaying of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Officials of the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) made the demand during a visit to Pakistan in the wake of the execution-style killing last month of a Pakistani journalist, Hayatullah Khan, in North Waziristan.
“This case deserves as full an investigation as the Pakistani government was able to put together for an American journalist,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Programme Coordinator at a press conference.
Pakistan moved swiftly, under intense U.S. pressure, to catch militants involved in Pearl’s murder in Karachi while he was on assignment on a story on al Qaeda for the Asian Wall Street Journal.
The CPJ believes the deaths of seven Pakistani journalists since 2002 have received less attention than they deserve, while the case of Pearl, whose beheading was videotaped by his killers, became a cause celebre in the international media.
Pearl’s story is being turned into a movie, titled “A Mighty Heart” based on a book written by his widow. The film, produced by Brad Pitt, will star Angelina Jolie.
Hayatullah Khan was abducted last year after reporting that an al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, had been killed by a U.S missile strike, contradicting the Pakistan government’s account that Rabia died in a blast caused by explosives stored in the house he was hiding in.
Last month, Khan’s body was found dumped in the mountains near the Afghan border, he was handcuffed and he was shot in the back of the head.
“The handcuff has been identified as those of the kind standard issued by government agencies. Bullets were found at the scene at which his body was left. These bullets have been identified as types frequently used by government agencies,” said David Marash, a CPJ board member.
A statement issued by CPJ following a meeting with Pakistani officials said the government pledged to investigate and review investigative records and reveal information about the killings of Pakistani journalists since 2002.
A half yearly report issued last week by Internews, an international non-governmental organization operating in over 40 countries, recorded 48 incidents of attacks and harassment of Pakistani journalists, and two incidents of murder in the first six months of 2006.