On September 7, Monday, various prominent human rights groups, including the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Freedom Network, The Coalition for Women in Journalism and Voice of Balochistan, condemned the suspected ‘honor killing’ of 25-year-old journalist Shaheena Shaheen Baloch, who died under mysterious circumstances in southwest Pakistan’s Turbat on Saturday evening.
Shaheena Baloch was the editor of Baloch magazine Dazgohar and an anchor at the Pakistan Television Network – Bolan wing. She was also pursuing a fine arts course at the University of Balochistan. Police in their first information report have noted that as per Baloch’s family members, her death may be a case of honor killing involving her husband. The police report quotes eyewitnesses’ claims that the journalist was brought to a district hospital in Turbat by two men, one of whom was her husband, Mehrab Ghichki, who fled from the hospital immediately.
Following her mysterious death, The Coalition For Women In Journalism has demanded that federal and central authorities investigate the case and take tough measures to punish her murderer.
Baloch was a well-known gender rights activist, whose social work and contributions towards the cause of women’s emancipation in the Kech region have been widely recognized and appreciated. “She actively campaigned for gender equality and women empowerment through her work. While the murder is being linked to honor killing, it sets a dangerous precedent for women journalists working in Balochistan, where press freedom and women’s rights continue to be violated on varied occasions,” The Coalition For Women In Journalism said in a statement following her death.
At least four rights activists from the southwestern Balochistan province in Pakistan have been killed since May this year. In June, two local journalists from Balochistan’s Quetta, Saeed Ali and Abdul Mateen, were allegedly beaten up by the security forces in the Chaman region. The two were accused of being involved in trafficking and cross-border smuggling. Reporters Without Borders had called the incident “completely unacceptable for representatives of the security forces to commit acts of torture against journalists reporting from the region.”
Pakistan currently ranks at 145 out of 180 countries included in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index. As per the Committee to Protect Journalists, in the past three decades, at least 60 journalists have lost their lives while reporting in Pakistan.