Pakistani blogger murdered for exposing local drug trafficking
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an independent investigation into the murder of a journalist who used his Facebook page to expose the activities of drug traffickers and their accomplices within the local administration in the area where he lived in northwestern Pakistan. Those who ordered this shocking murder must be brought to justice, RSF says.
Muhammad Zada was gunned down in his home in Sakhakot, a town in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, on 8 November after being chased inside by two men who had followed him on a motorcycle.
The editor of a Facebook page called “Citizen Journalist PK” in which he covered social issues in Malakand, the district in which Sakhakot is located, he had recently become famous by drawing attention to the activities of local criminal groups and the complicity they enjoy within the local government.
During a “Kuli Katchery” (a sort of public hearing in which citizens are supposed to be able to express their grievances) held last month, Zada delivered a fiery speech denouncing the “growing drug business” in the region and the “rampant corruption” of local officials. A video of his speech, in which he clearly implicated drug traffickers and influential local figures, was widely circulated on social media, angering the individuals cited.
In a message subsequently posted online, Zada said 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.
Yesterday, provincial chief minister Mahmood Khan announced that he had suspended both the deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner and had ordered an inquiry into Zada’s murder.
“We take good note of the measures adopted by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s government and we urge it to do whatever is necessary to ensure that those who ordered Muhammad Zada’s shocking murder are brought to justice,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“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. This appalling crime cannot go unpunished.”
Zada is the second journalist to be murdered in the past week in Pakistan, where violence is often used to silence critics.
As RSF reported, the body of Nazim Jokhiyo, an amateur video reporter, was found covered with the marks of blows and torture on 3 November, a few hours after he posted a video online showing poachers organising a hunting party for Arab dignitaries in the southern province of Sindh.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.