Prominent Pakistani journalist Absar Alam shot and wounded

Police say motive behind shooting is not immediately clear, investigation team formed to probe the attack.

Absar Alam, former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) poses for a portrait in Islamabad, Pakistan [File: Caren Firouz/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Prominent Pakistani journalist Absar Alam has been shot and wounded in what appears to be a targeted attack near his home, police say.

Alam was shot at a park near his home in the F-11 area of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday evening, a police spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

“He was shot in the stomach,” said Zia Bajwa, the spokesperson. “He has been operated on [at a local hospital] and he is OK, he is conscious.”

Alam, a senior broadcast journalist with more than two decades of experience, had also served as head of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the country’s electronic media watchdog.

The motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear, police said, with an investigation team formed to probe the attack.

“[A senior police officer] is at the location of the attack and they are gathering evidence,” said Bajwa, shortly after the shooting.

In a video shared on Twitter that was recorded as he was being taken to hospital, Alam confirmed the attack.

“I was walking outside my house and someone has shot me,” he says in the video. “This is my message to those [who attacked me]: I am not one to lose my spirit.”

Doctors said Alam’s life was out of danger [File: Caren Firouz/Reuters]

Al Jazeera has verified the authenticity of the video message with a witness who was accompanying Alam at the hospital.

“[Alam says] that he was walking [in the park] and this man who [attacked him] had crossed him two or three times,” said journalist Gharidah Farooqi, who was with Alam at the hospital as he was being treated.

“Absar said he was suspicious of the man [and] this man was running around him, and on the fourth round [the attacker] came close to him and shot him at very close range.”

Doctors say Alam’s life is currently out of danger, after suffering a broken rib and damage to his liver from the single bullet, which went through his body, Farooqi said.

Press freedom in Pakistan

Pakistan ranks low on global press freedom indices, with journalists subject to enforced disappearances and targeted attacks, and news organisations regularly censored for certain forms of coverage critical of the government and military.

On Tuesday, media rights group Reporters Without Borders (known by its French acronym RSF) ranked Pakistan 145 out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index.

“The all-powerful military intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), continues to make extensive use of judicial harassment, intimidation, abduction and torture to silence critics both domestically and abroad, where many journalists and bloggers living in self-imposed exile have been subjected to threats designed to rein them in,” read a statement from RSF.

“Although the vast majority of media outlets reluctantly comply with the red lines imposed by the military, the Pakistani censorship apparatus is still struggling to control social media, the only space where a few critical voices can be heard.”

On Sunday, Alam had posted a tweet where he alleged current ISI chief General Faiz Hameed had, in 2018, attempted to pressure Alam in his capacity as chairman of regulatory authority PEMRA.

Direct criticism of the country’s powerful military, which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 74-year history and remains in control of many aspects of governance, is rare in Pakistan, particularly the naming of generals in any allegations of wrongdoing.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera