The owner of Anticrime, a local newspaper for which the 27-year-old Urooj Iqbal used to work, Ali shot her in the head as she entered her home in Lahore, the provincial capital, on 24 November. She died on the spot.
“He wanted her to drop the idea of launching her own local newspaper,” Iqbal’s brother, Yasir Iqbal, told RSF, adding that she had recently filed a complaint against Ali because he was threatening to kill her if she did not stop working as a reporter. Her own newspaper was to have been called Franchise.
Although arrested for shooting Urooj Iqbal, Ali managed to get released on bail. Iqbal’s brother plans to contest that decision at a bail confirmation court hearing on 14 December.
“We call on the Punjabi police and judicial authorities to do everything possible to ensure that this shocking crime does not go unpunished,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This femicide is a damning example of the condition of women journalists in Pakistan, who need immense courage to work openly despite the constant heavy pressure from the prevailing patriarchy.”
“Environment of fear”
According to a 2018 report by RSF’s partner organization in Pakistan, Freedom Network, fewer than 5% of Pakistan’s journalists are women. They are subjected to many forms of discrimination, including lower pay, psychological and sexual harassment, being restricted to covering “women’s” issues, and pressure from their families not to work in a male-dominated environment.
“Women journalists work in an environment of fear, we are harassed at every step and at every moment,” Asma Shirazi told RSF. Pakistan’s first woman war reporter, initially in Lebanon and then along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, Shirazi received the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2014.
“When I was not married, my family was very worried about my doing journalism,” she added. “And instead of shielding me when I was under threat, they asked me to quit journalism.”
Pakistan is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.