Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Publisher and provincial governor gunned down for criticising blasphemy law

Publisher and provincial governor gunned down for criticising blasphemy law

Salman Taseer, the governor of the northeastern province of Punjab and owner of the English-language Daily Times, Urdu-language Daily Aaj Kal and the TV station B-Plus, was gunned down yesterday in the capital, Islamabad. He was shot by one of his own bodyguards, who reportedly said it was because of the influential editor’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

After a year in which 11 journalists were killed in Pakistan, more than in any other country, 2011 has begun tragically for the Pakistani media.

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the murder and voices its support for the family and colleagues of the victim, who was regarded as one of the more moderate figures in the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

“The pressure is growing on Pakistani public figures opposed to intolerance,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the authorities to do everything possible to protect journalists and combat impunity. The current climate of violence is unfortunately liable to foster self-censorship within the media.”

In other recent case of religious intolerance, Newsweek Pakistan Magazine received serious threats because of its coverage of the Ahmadi religious minority, a taboo subject for Muslim fundamentalists.

As a tribute to Taseer’s memory, Reporters Without Borders urges the government to reform the very strict blasphemy law, which often causes problems for journalists. Freedom of expression would benefit if its harshest provisions were amended.

Gunned down outside Kohsar Market, near his home, Taseer died shortly after being rushed to a hospital. Interior minister Rehman Malik said his bodyguard surrendered the murder weapon to police and confessed to shooting the governor because he had criticized the blasphemy law.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced three days of national mourning.

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