On Tuesday 22 December, a suicide bomber nonchalantly walked into the compound of the Peshawar Press Club and, when his passage is obstructed by constable Riaz Uddin, detonates himself. The blast killed three people and injured dozens others, among them staff of the press club, journalists and the police constable himself who paid with his life for his service. The news hit us just as we were going to press, but it was an event that is impossible and unforgivable to ignore. It highlights the danger that reporters place themselves in the pursuit of their work, especially in Peshawar. Below we excerpt our commentary on the event from our upcoming January issue.
Journalism under threat
The rest of the media fraternity in Southasia does not fully realise how dangerous some parts of the region are for those who seek to uphold independent journalism. Sri Lanka, the Indian Northeast, Kashmir and Nepal beyond the Kathmandu Valley are areas where the threat to life and limb are very real. Himal was reminded of this when a member of our editorial board, Manisha Aryal, narrowly escaped the 9 June blast in the Pearl Continental in Peshawar, because she was in the other wing of the hotel. On 22 December, in the first-ever direct attack on journalists in Pakistan, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb that ripped into the Peshawar Press Club, where our Contributing Editor Iqbal Khattak is a regular. Khurram Pervez of The News, and staff of the Press Club were injured. Himal contributor Manzoor Ali Shah also happened to be in the building. We salute police constable Riaz Uddin who sacrificed his life trying to save the journalists inside, and wish all journalists in Peshawar a quick recovery from the trauma in a part of Southasia that is becoming more dangerous to journalists by the day.
Himal contributing editor from Peshawar, Iqbal Khattak, has obtained CCTV footage of the event.