UN condemns murder of Pakistani journalist

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,

Azoulay said.

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)