Pakistan authorities must thoroughly and impartially investigate the killing of Muhammad Zada Agra and hold the perpetrators accountable, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 8, two unidentified men fatally shot Agra, who covered politics, corruption, and the activities of local drug cartels and criminal groups on his Facebook page Citizen Journalist PK and its corresponding YouTube channel, near his home in Sakhakot city in the Malakand district, according to news reports. Agra was also the former district president of the Insaf Students Federation, the student wing of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, according to Dawn.
In a press conference held yesterday, Anwarul Haq, deputy commissioner of the Malakand district police, said two men associated with local drug traffickers were arrested and a motorcycle and Kalashnikov rifle used in the murder had been recovered from the accused, according to news reports.
“The killing of journalist Muhammad Zada Agra following his coverage of sensitive issues, which are vital to public interest, is a tragic loss that must not go unpunished,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “While the Malakand district police appear to have made progress by arresting two suspects, they also need to establish a motive for Agra’s killing in a thorough and impartial investigation and hold the perpetrators to account.”
In October, Agra spoke at a public hearing with the now former deputy commissioner of the Malakand police and criticized his alleged inaction in responding to the activities of local drug cartels.
Following the hearing, Agra published a post on his personal Facebook page where he alleged that the former deputy commissioner was part of a “dirty conspiracy” and was trying to misuse his authority to harass and arrest the journalist. Agra also alleged that if anything happened to him, the former deputy commissioner would be responsible.
Protesters gathered in Sakhakot following Agra’s death and said the journalist informed authorities about threats to his life prior to his killing, but was not offered protection, according to Samaa TV. The report did not state whether the threats were related to his journalism or his other activities.
The deputy commissioner and an assistant commissioner of the Malakand police were suspended one day after Agra’s killing, according to news reports.
CPJ called and emailed Abdul Ghafoor Afridi, deputy inspector general of the Malakand police and emailed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police department for comment but did not receive a reply.
In October, journalist Shahid Zehri was also killed in Pakistan, as CPJ documented at the time.