Defamation / Reputation, Digital Rights, Violence Against Speakers / Impunity
Andrea Lilian Uribe Peña v. Ministry of Labour and Carlos Alberto Merchán Espíndola
On Appeal Expands Expression
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The Pakistani Anti-Terrorism Court convicted six men of the 2011 murder of Wali Khan Babar, a TV reporter for Geo News. All men belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the largest political party in Karachi, and are believed to have targeted Babar for his reporting on the Movement’s turf wars and its role in land grabbing, extortion and targeted killings. This decision marks only the fifth instance where the killers of journalists were convicted.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression notes that some of the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. This case analysis was provided by the Pakistan Press Foundation
On 13 January, 2011 Wali Khan Babar, reporter of Geo News television channel was killed while he was on his way home. After a lengthy investigation, seven suspects were eventually tried for murder as well as for terrorism offences.
Judge Laghari announced the verdict of the Court. He found six of the seven guilty. All six were, or had been in the past, workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the largest political party in Karachi. Babar is believed to have been targeted because of his reporting on MQM’s turf wars and its role role in land grabbing, extortion and targeted killings.
There were two important pieces of evidence which helped the prosecution to successfully plead the case: the confessional statement of one accused, and the identification of the murderers by an eyewitness, Haider Ali, who was later killed himself.
Judge Laghari sentenced four of the six to life imprisonment and two to death.
All have appealed to the Sindh High Court.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Wali Khan Babar is one of only three journalists killed for their reporting whose murderers have been convicted.
According to research by Pakistan Press Foundation, since 2001, 76 journalists and media workers in Pakistan have lost their lives while pursuing their work. Of these, 48 have been deliberately targeted and murdered for their reporting; the others were killed while covering dangerous assignments. Adding to the gravity of the situation is the fact that the perpetrators of violence against media professionals have in the past enjoyed almost absolute impunity from prosecution in Pakistan.
It is also noteworthy that it took three years for the specialized Anti-Terrorism Court to announce its verdict. This was due to security concerns: five witnesses in the case, including one crucial eye witness, were murdered, as was the initial prosecutor assigned to the case, Naimat Ali Randhawa. The provincial government filed an application in the Sindh High Court requesting that the case be transferred to Kandhkot , owing to the security risk to those involved. This was request was granted and the case eventually proceeded in Kandhkot.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Section 302 states the ‘Punishment of qatl-i-amd’
Section 34 concerns ‘Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention’
Section 7 concerns ‘Punishment for acts of terrorism’
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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