Journalist's Killing Unites Pakistan's Media

Saleem Shahzad is the latest journalist to be killed in Pakistan. Over the last 18 months, at least 16 journalists have been killed there. Last week, other members of the media held a 24-hour sit-in across from Parliament to say the killers of Shahzad would be uncovered regardless of where the trail leads.

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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: The discovery of investigative reporter Saleem Shahzad's tortured body in a canal three weeks ago has unnerved and united Pakistan's diverse journalistic community.

Unidentified Man #1: We want...

Group: ...justice.

Unidentified Man #1: We want...

Group: ...justice.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

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: Chanting: Oppressor, account for the blood you have shed, they demanded that Shahzad's killers be uncovered, regardless of where the trail leads. Many suspect it will lead to Pakistan's shadowy intelligence agency, the ISI - a charge it vehemently denies.

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.

Mr. HAMID MIR (Journalist, News Anchor): 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: In the crowd was reporter Waqar Kiani who was tortured himself as a young reporter in 2008. He'd been blindfolded, taken to a safe house, and viciously interrogated by unknown assailants. He was working for the British newspaper the Guardian, researching the illegal detention and torture of suspected Islamist militants.

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.

Mr. WAQAR KIANI (Journalist, Guardian Newspaper): 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: Waqar said he stayed silent so long because his abductors threatened to rape his wife and play it on YouTube if he spoke about his kidnapping.

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.

Mr. 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?

Mr. 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: He says the men wore police uniforms but Islamabad's police chief says none of his force was involved. Interior Minister Rehman Malik promised the Guardian a full investigation. A similar promise was made three years ago after the first attack on Waqar, but nothing came of it.

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

Mr. 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.

Mr. 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: Waqar has no plans to stop being a reporter. Pakistan's journalists are not taking harassment lying down, even as incidents of intimidation mount.

Julie McCarthy NPR News, Islamabad,

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