Seven reporters have been killed in Pakistan in the first six months of 2024, a record annual number with half a year still to go.

The most recent victim was Khalil Jibran, a former president of a local press club in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. He died in June when the car he was driving was ambushed by two men who dragged him out and shot him multiple times.

Adil Jawad, who works for an organisation that investigates journalist killings, said at least four of the seven cases – which involved traditional journalists and citizen reporters – were likely to have been work-related.

Most of the deaths have taken place in smaller towns and cities, where the role of social media in amplifying the profile of professional journalists and giving a platform to citizen reporters has been most keenly felt.

Jawad said the attacks were taking place in the context of “widespread impunity” for perpetrators.

The Freedom Network, which advocates for press freedoms, said 53 journalists were killed because of their work between 2012 and 2022, and that over the same time frame only two cases resulted in culprits being punished.

Citizen journalism has grown significantly in Pakistan in recent years, fuelled by the rise of social media and curbs on the mainstream press. Laypeople have taken it upon themselves to cover the worsening law and order situation and corruption in the ruling elite.

In late May, Nasrullah Gadani, a journalist known for holding local politicians, land owners and feudal lords to account in his reporting, was killed in the Badin district of Sindh province, setting off a wave of protests. His brother Yaqoob Gadani alleged that Khalid Lund, a local member of parliament, masterminded the killing. Lund has denied the allegations.

Just three days before Gadani’s death, another journalist, Kamran Dawar, was killed in the North Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Responding to those deaths, Anthony Bellanger, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, said at the time: “Journalists and media workers in Pakistan have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, however this is undermined by targeted attacks, assaults, and killings. Authorities must ensure that the media is free to work without fear of retribution and ensure that these killings are subject to an immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation.”

Pakistan dropped two places in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, to 152 out of 180 countries. The index said Pakistan was “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”.

2024-07-10T02:11:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd