Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for a special independent team to investigate this week’s “shocking murder” of a Pakistani journalist, saying there is “every reason to doubt” local police claims that it was a so-called honor killing.
The body of Zulfiqar Mandrani, a reporter for the Sindhi-language dailies Kawish and Koshish, was found on May 26 in the town of Dodapur in southeastern Sindh Province with two bullets in the head and marks of torture across his back.
The same day, police in the nearby city of Larkana announced the arrest of two suspects, who allegedly confessed to killing Mandrani for reasons of “honor.”
However, the journalist’s father filed a complaint with the police on May 28 naming several different suspects, including a police officer, said to be linked to a local drug trafficker, RSF said in a statement.
Mandrani, who had been investigating the activities of this drug trafficker, received death threats from the suspects before his murder, the father was quoted as saying.
“The initial findings reported by the local police are clearly unreliable because everything is being done to ensure that those behind Zulfiqar Mandrani’s murder get off scot-free,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the death of a journalist who was murdered because of his reporting is being passed off as an honor killing,” Bastard said, calling on the chief minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, to send an independent team from Karachi to investigate the case.
RSF said the perpetrators of a murder in Pakistan can escape criminal justice if they can pass it off as an “honor killing” because a village assembly of elders, or panchayat, may then try the case. Then, the perpetrators could avoid punishment if they obtain the family’s forgiveness, by paying financial compensation if necessary, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog added.
Mandrani is the second journalist to be killed in Sindh Province since the beginning of the year.
The body of Aziz Memon, who also worked for Kawish News Network, was found in a canal near his hometown of Mehrabpur with wire tied around his neck in February.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.