Pakistani reporter gunned down by drug traffickers

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s murder of a young Pakistani newspaper reporter who dared to violate the code of silence surrounding drug trafficking, and calls on the country’s authorities to create a mechanism for protecting journalists.

Sohail Khan was gunned down by two men in Haripur district, 60 km north of Islamabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, shortly after filing a request for protection at the Haripur district police station because of the death threats he had received. An investigative report by Khan about a drug baron in Haripur had been published earlier yesterday in the Kay2 newspaper.

“Gunmen killed Sohail with a burst of Kalashnikov fire and the police have already identified suspects,” Raja Tahir, Kay2’s bureau chief in Haripur, told RSF. The two gunmen are reportedly associates of the drug baron named in Khan’s story.

“Sohail Khan’s shocking murder is indicative of an increase in violence that is very worrying for journalists in Pakistan,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The circumstances of his death are all the more unacceptable because he knew he was threatened. We therefore call on the Pakistani authorities to lose no time in creating a mechanism for protecting journalists that can operate at federal, provincial and district levels. All possible resources must be deployed to reverse this deadly trend.”

Four journalists killed this year in Pakistan

Khan is the second Kay2 journalist to be killed in just over a year in Haripur, a district where drug trafficking in rife. He was preceded by Bakshish Elahi, who was gunned down in broad daylight on 11 June 2017.

Khan’s death brings the total number of journalists murdered this year in Pakistan to four, of whom three were clearly targeted in connection with their work. The most recent previous victim was Abid Hussain, a young reporter who covered drug trafficking in the eastern province of Punjab. He was badly beaten on 22 August and died of his injuries the next day.

Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, a 29-year-old newspaper reporter, was shot by a municipal council leader in the north of Punjab province when he tried to interview him on 27 March.

Local newspaper subeditor Anjum Muneer Raja was shot six times by men on a motorcycle in a supposedly safe part of the Islamabad suburb of Rawalpindi on 1 March. His killers have yet to be identified.

Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.