New York, June 19, 2019 — Pakistani authorities should swiftly investigate the killing of journalist Muhammad Bilal Khan in Islamabad to determine the motive and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On June 16, unknown individuals attacked Khan, an independent journalist who ran a YouTube channel where he interviewed political figures and talked about religion and politics, and stabbed him to death, according to news reports.
The government has vowed to investigate the killing, according to Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn.
“Authorities must quickly launch a credible investigation into the killing of Muhammad Bilal Khan, including whether his journalism was a motive,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “This brutal crime is not only a tragedy for Khan’s family but it is bound to instill fear in the journalistic community until the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.”
In the evening of June 16, Khan received a phone call from an unidentified man asking him to come to Islamabad’s G-9 sector. When Khan and his relative Ehtasham ul Haq arrived to meet the man, unknown individuals hit Ehtasham from behind and stabbed him multiple times, and brought Khan to a nearby wooded area and stabbed him at least 17 times, according to English-language Pakistani daily The News.
Khan and Ehtasham were transported to a local hospital following the attack but Khan died en route, according to The News. Ehtasham survived the attack with severe injuries, Dawn reported.
Police said the suspects used a dagger to kill Khan, according to Dawn.
Khan’s father filed a first information report, the first legal step towards a police investigation, with the police the day of the attack, according to Dawn. CPJ emailed the Islamabad police for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Khan had more than 19 thousand followers on Twitter and more than 54 thousand subscribers on YouTube. One of his last tweets prior to his death was critical of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s intelligence agency. In his recent videos he gave political commentary on a recent speech by the prime minister and on a bill that would eliminate sectarianism in the country.
Although killings of journalists have declined in Pakistan in recent years, CPJ has documented a rising trend of censorship under pressure from the military. In 2018, journalist Sohail Khan was murdered in relation to his work and Zeeshan Butt was killed, though CPJ had not determined the motive behind the latter’s killing.