Schiff Condemns Murder of Pakistani Journalist

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-29) released the following statement after reports that Asia Times Online’s Pakistan bureau chief Syed Saleem Shahzad was found tortured and slain yesterday near the town of Mandi Bahauddin, about 75 miles southeast of Islamabad:

“I am deeply distressed and saddened by the news that Asia Times Online’s Pakistan bureau chief Syed Saleem Shahzad was found tortured and slain yesterday about 75 miles southeast of Islamabad.

“For months Shahzad had expressed to colleagues that he feared for his life, as he had been warned by intelligence agents to stop writing about sensitive matters.

“The 40-year-old went missing on Sunday, two days after he published an article claiming Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistani navy and asserting that the May 22 siege on a naval base in Karachi, which resulted in the death of 10 security personnel, was carried out by militants in retaliation after the military refused to release a group of naval officials suspected of having militant ties.

“Reporting is a dangerous business, especially for journalists reporting on militant groups in Pakistan, the intelligence community and potential links between the two. My thoughts and prayers are with Shahzad's family and friends in their time of loss and sorrow, and I strongly condemn this brave journalist’s death.

“Tragically, Shahzad’s death is just the latest in a long series of beatings and murders of journalists in Pakistan, which the Committee to Protect Journalists listed as the world's most dangerous country for reporters in 2010. Last year alone, eight journalists were killed in the country, and Shahzad was the third reporter to be slain in Pakistan this year.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan’s constitution, in addition to other legislation, such as the Official Secrets Act, authorizes the government to stem freedom of speech on a myriad of issues, from the constitution itself, to the armed forces, the judiciary, and religion.

“These principles violate international law, which clearly guarantees freedom of expression and the right to a free press. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press, I urge the Pakistani government to undertake all efforts to ensure the safety of journalists within its borders, in addition to a full, independent and transparent investigation into the death of Shahzad.

“Governments throughout the region and elsewhere in the world must protect journalists and allow them to do their work without having to fear being harassed or detained, or worse.

“A free and open media is an essential guarantor of human rights. The censorship, intimidation, imprisonment, and murder of journalists violate not only their personal liberty, but also the rights of those who are denied access to these ideas and information.

“The Pakistani government must make every effort to bring Shahzad’s killer to justice, as the failure to prosecute individuals who have carried out crimes against journalists contributes to that nation’s climate of intolerance and impunity.”