A reporter for the Urdu-language newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt, Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, 29, was shot by Imran Cheema, the head of the local municipal council, when he tried to interview him outside the headquarters of the council, and died on the spot.
A former head of the press club in the town of Sambrial, Butt went to Begowala to cover the new tax that Cheema has imposed on local shopkeepers, his family said. According to his brother, Cheema became very angry about Butt’s questions, gunned him down and then fled. The local police have opened an investigation.
“We call on the Punjab public prosecutions department to supervise the investigation closely and to ensure its complete independence, so that all possible light is shed on this tragedy,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We also call for special facilities and judges specifically assigned to protecting journalists and combatting impunity. In particular, we call for the creation of safety hubs and special prosecutors at the regional and federal level. The issue of journalists’ safety must be placed at the centre of the campaign for the next general elections, which are due to take place within a few months.”
In Pakistan, journalists are often the targets of physical violence, abduction or intimidation by the intelligence services and the military. The many unpunished murders of journalists make Pakistan, and Punjab in particular, one of the world’s most dangerous places for the media.
As a result of the violence, the few outspoken critics of Pakistan’s political system are forced to leave the country. They include Taha Siddiqui, a journalist who narrowly escaped an abduction attempt in January.
Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.