ISLAMABAD, A top UN agency on Wednesday
demanded justice for a freelance Pakistani journalist who was murdered
earlier this month, as activists warned of a shrinking space for dissent and
threats to freedom of speech.
Muhammad Bilal Khan, a social media activist, blogger and freelancer with
tens of thousands of followers across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, was
stabbed to death in Islamabad on June 16.
The motive for the killing is not known, but Bilal cast a wide net with
his criticism, with the powerful military, politicians, sportsmen, religious
figures and even fellow journalists coming in for their share.
Local police said on the day of his death he received a phone call from an
unidentified person, who took him to a nearby forest and killed him.
I condemn the killing of Muhammad Bilal Khan, UNESCO chief Audrey
Azoulay said in a statement, calling for authorities investigating this
crime to bring its perpetrators to trial.
The statement came after an earlier condemnation by the New Yorkbased
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which asked Pakistani authorities to
swiftly investigate the killing to determine the motive and hold the
perpetrators to account.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be preserved
for everybody, regardless of individuals' religious or political opinion,
Censorship is already rife among the country's onceriotous mainstream
media, with the CPJ noting last year that the military had quietly but
effectively imposed strict limits on reporting.
Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were regarded as the last holdouts
of dissenting voices, but now even that has changed.
In February, authorities announced the creation of a new enforcement arm
to root out social media users accused of spreading hate speech and
violence as part of the crackdown.
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world's most dangerous countries for
media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even
killed for being critical of the government or powerful military.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)