Arshad Sharif, a prominent Pakistani journalist who fled the country after he was charged with sedition, has died in Kenya after he was shot by police responding to reports of a stolen vehicle, authorities said.
“The officers trailing the motor vehicle … alerted police in Magadi who erected a road barrier,” Bruno Isohi Shioso, a spokesperson for Kenya’s National Police Service, said in a statement.
Sharif’s car allegedly drove through the road barrier and “it is then that they were shot at,” Shioso said. Sharif was “fatally wounded by a police officer,” he said, adding that the incident was being investigated.
According to a police report seen by Kenyan national news outlet The Nation, the roadblock had been set up after reports of a kidnapping that involved a car bearing a similar license plate number to that of Sharif’s.
Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian watchdog organization, said it has already started investigating the incident.
“I lost friend, husband and my favourite journalist @arsched today, as per police he was shot in Kenya,” Sharif’s wife, Javeria Siddique, tweeted Monday.
Sharif fled Pakistan in August due to sedition charges leveled against him for allegedly criticizing state institutions and “abetting mutiny” within the military.
He had interviewed opposition politician Shahbaz Gill, a close ally of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Following the interview, Gill was also charged with sedition by the Pakistani police for making what they claim were “anti-state comments.”
Sharif’s channel ARY initially claimed that it was “being hounded by the present regime,” but then said it had cut ties with Sharif after it was taken off air for about a month on August 8 by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
Sharif had to “flee Pakistan in August to save his life,” a close associate of his told CNN. He had initially gone to Dubai but was forced to flee from the UAE due to “harassment by Pakistani officials,” the associate added.
Sharif had “only been in Kenya for a few weeks since that is one of the few places Pakistani passport holders don’t need a visa for entry,” the associate said.
Pakistan’s embassy officials in Nairobi are waiting for a the police report, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Though not technically under military rule today, Pakistan has been ruled by the military for much of its 75-year history.
The Foreign Press Association, Africa (FPA Africa) said it is “deeply disturbed” by Sharif’s killing, especially the circumstances in which he died.
“Sharif’s death has robbed the media fraternity globally of a dedicated and forthright journalist,” FPA Africa said in a statement.
The association added that it is calling on authorities in Kenya to investigate the incident and thereby assure “foreign journalists based in the country and covering Africa, including those who visit on assignment and other professional undertakings that they’re safe.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan tweeted on Monday that “a long, grim record of violent tactics to silence journalists explain why the reported murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya has sent shock waves through the journalist community.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that he was “deeply saddened by the shocking news” of Sharif’s death. Shehbaz also said he had a phone conversation with Kenyan President William Ruto and “I requested him to ensure fair & transparent investigation into shocking incident. He promised all-out help including fast-tracking the process of return of the body” to Pakistan.
CNN’s Bethlehem Feleke reported from Nairobi, Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad and Irene Nasser reported from Hong Kong.