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Global press freedom bodies demand fresh probe into murder of journalist

By Our Correspondent
June 17, 2021

Leading press freedom organisations have called for an independent re-investigation into the murder of journalist Zubair Mujahid, who was killed in 2007, after a report highlighted significant errors in the official police investigation of the case.

The report, titled ‘Breaking the Silence: An Investigation into the Murder of Zubair Mujahid’, was published as part of A Safer World For The Truth, a joint initiative by the Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to pursue justice for murdered journalists worldwide. The document was released at a press conference on Wednesday at the Karachi Press Club.

Working as a correspondent for the Daily Jang – Pakistan’s largest Urdu language newspaper – in Mirpurkhas, Sindh, Mujahid exposed local corruption and human rights abuses in his news stories. He was murdered in November 2007 during the turbulent downfall of the regime of Pervez Musharraf.

Strikingly, some of his most impactful stories exposed wrongdoings by the local police in Mirpurkhas, which led to the dismissal of various police officers, the report revealed. “As a consequence, Zubair Mujahid received threats from individuals within the police department. This very same department was tasked with investigating the murder.”

The report revealed serious errors in the official police investigation. Specifically, it found that police investigators did not analyse the bullet with which Zubair was shot and also did not search for eyewitnesses around the crime scene. The Mirpurkhas police did not respond to requests for comments.

The report called for an effective and impartial investigation team to re-investigate the murder under the auspices of the Sindh High Court. Leon Willems, director at the FPU, has stated, “Killing a journalist is the world’s safest crime: in nine out of ten cases, the killer goes free. To break the cycle of impunity, Pakistan’s authorities must step up their efforts to ensure justice for Zubair Mujahid.”

Meanwhile, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon remarked, “Pakistan has seen almost total impunity for the murder of journalists over the past decade. Re-investigating the case of Zubair Mujahid is an important step towards breaking the cycle of impunity.”

For RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire, Mujahid was murdered for exposing the truth. “The murder must now be adequately investigated and justice must be achieved,” he said. According to a study by the CPJ, at least 61 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. On the most recent World Press Freedom Index published by the RSF, the country ranks 145 out of 180. The report is the second in a series of investigations into unsolved murders of journalists worldwide.