Authorities said Arshad Sharif, a prominent Pakistani journalist who fled the country after being accused of sedition, died in Kenya after police shot him in response to news of a car theft.
“Officers following the vehicle … alerted police in Magadi who set up a roadblock,” Bruno Issui Chiusu, a spokesman for the Kenya National Police Service, said in a statement.
Sheriff’s car allegedly drove past the roadblock and “that’s when they were shot,” Chiuso said. Sharif was “mortally wounded by a police officer,” he said, adding that the incident is being investigated.
According to a police report seen by Kenya’s national news agency, The Nation, the roadblock was set up after reports of a car with a license plate number similar to Sharif’s cars being hijacked.
Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian watchdog, said it had already started an investigation into the incident.
“I lost my friend, my husband and my favorite journalist @arsched today, according to the police, he was shot in Kenya,” Sharif’s wife, Javiria Siddik, Tweet on Monday.
Sharif fled Pakistan in August over sedition charges for allegedly criticizing state institutions and “inciting rebellion” within the military.
He had interviewed opposition politician Shahbaz Gill, a close ally of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Following the interview, the Pakistani police also accused Gill of sedition for making what they claim were “anti-state comments”.
Sharif channel ARY initially claimed that it was being “hunted by the current regime,” but then said it cut ties with Sharif after she was suspended by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for about a month on August 8.
Sharif “had to flee Pakistan in August to save his life,” a person close to him told CNN. The aide added that he initially went to Dubai but was forced to flee the UAE due to “harassment by Pakistani officials”.
The aide said Sharif “was only in Kenya for a few weeks because that is one of the few places where Pakistani passport holders do not need a visa to enter.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Pakistani embassy officials in Nairobi were awaiting the police report.
Although Pakistan is not technically under military rule today, it has been ruled by the military for much of its 75-year history.
The Foreign Press Association of Africa (FPA Africa) said it was “deeply disturbed” by Sharif’s killing, especially the circumstances in which he died.
“Sherif’s death has robbed the global media fraternity of a loyal and forthright journalist,” FPA Africa said in a statement.
The association added that it was calling on the authorities in Kenya to investigate the incident and thus reassure “foreign journalists residing in the country and covering Africa, including those visiting on assignment and other professional assignments, that they are safe”.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) tweeted on Monday that “the long and grim record of violent tactics to silence journalists explains why the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya has sent shockwaves through the journalist community.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened by the shocking news” of Sharif’s death. Shahbaz also said that he had a telephone conversation with Kenyan President William Ruto, “I asked him to ensure a fair and transparent investigation into the horrific incident. He promised comprehensive assistance including speeding up the process of returning the body to Pakistan.”
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