UN voices concern over rising attacks on Pakistani journalists, activists

NEW YORK: The United Nations today (Tuesday) has voiced concern over ‘growing’ attacks on journalists and human rights activists in Pakistan, urging the government to take immediate and concrete steps to ensure their protection.

The United Nation rights office said that it had followed ‘with increasing concern’ at numerous instances of incitement to violence against journalists and human rights defenders in the country, particularly against women and minorities.

At a press briefing in Geneva, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville pointed out the case of journalist Shaheena Shaheen, who was shot dead last Saturday by in Balochistan’s Kech district.

He also highlighted the killings of four journalists and bloggers in Pakistan connection with their reporting, including Arooj Iqbal, a woman who was shot dead in Lahore as she tried to launch her own local newspaper.

“In the vast majority of such cases, those responsible have not been investigated, prosecuted and held to account,” Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

He also pointed out that last month, a number of Pakistani women journalists and commentators had warned of a coordinated campaign of social media attacks against anyone who was critical of government policies.

Citing an example, the spokesperson informed that a female activist had recently been accused of blasphemy on social media and police complaints were filed against her after a tweet.

“The activist had received numerous messages with highly derogatory and violent language, including gender-based slurs and death threats, and her personal details were also revealed on Twitter,” he noted.

Rupert Colville informed that the rights office had raised its concerns directly with the Pakistan government, urging it to take immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.

“We also stress the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of violence and killings,” he added.

The UN rights office also called on the government to unequivocally condemn incitement to violence against religious minorities as well as what appears to be an increase in the use of blasphemy laws for personal or political score-settling. 

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