Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an independent investigation into the killing of a blogger who exposed the activities of drug traffickers and their alleged accomplices within the local administration in the area where he lived in northwestern Pakistan.
Muhammad Zada, who used his Facebook page called Citizen Journalist PK to covered social issues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Malakand district, was gunned down in his home in the town of Sakhakot on November 8 -- the second journalist to be murdered in the past week in Pakistan.
Provincial Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has announced he had suspended the district’s deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner, and ordered an inquiry into the killing.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, urged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s authorities to “do whatever is necessary to ensure that those who ordered Muhammad Zada’s shocking murder are brought to justice.”
“By filling the gap left by the traditional media, which doesn’t dare cover certain sensitive subjects because of various forms of pressure and self-censorship, Muhammad Zada was providing his fellow citizens with absolutely vital information of a public interest nature,” he said in a statement on November 10.
During a public hearing last month, Zada delivered a speech denouncing the “growing drug business” in the region and the “rampant corruption” of local officials.
He later posted a message online saying Malakand’s deputy police commissioner was harassing him and that he should be held responsible in the event of any “foul conspiracy” resulting in his death.
Zada’s killing came five days after the dead body of an amateur video reporter was found covered with the marks of blows and torture near the northwestern city of Karachi, hours after he said he was being threatened over a video he posted online showing poachers organizing a hunting party for Arab dignitaries.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
The International Federation of Journalists says it is among the "most dangerous countries to practice journalism," with 138 journalists killed in the country between 1990 and 2020.
A Pakistani media-rights watchdog, Freedom Network, says of the 33 journalists killed in Pakistan between 2013 and 2019, no one has been punished.