KARACHI: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday paid tribute to human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir on her death for her services to democracy.
“RSF is deeply saddened to learn that Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani human rights lawyer who dedicated her life to defending the freedom to inform in Pakistan and then in the entire world, died of a heart attack on February 11 at the age of 66,” said a release.
Asma Jahangir passed away on Sunday from a cardiac arrest at a local hospital in Lahore.
RSF said Asma Jahangir always fought for democracy and what guarantees democracy, starting with the press.
Repeatedly detained, assaulted and threatened with death, she never stopped combatting Pakistan’s dictators, military and intelligence agencies with courage and determination, including as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan from 2010 to 2012, it added.
“The death of Asma Jahangir is a tragic loss for the entire human rights and press freedom movement,” RSF deputy director-general Antoine Bernard said.
“With just her courage and the strength of her conviction, she achieved spectacular progress and won admiration in Pakistan and in all the countries where she worked. She truly embodied the universality of our struggle,” he added.
“Asma Jahangir was a towering figure in the defence of human rights, including press freedom and free speech,” said Iqbal Khattak, RSF’s representative in Pakistan.
“Her sudden death is a major blow for the fight to enable the poorest sectors of the Pakistani population to fully enjoy these fundamental rights, which the powerful security forces and their religious supporters seek to deny the people. She embodied courageous support for journalists’ fight for freedom, and will endure as a powerful symbol of freedom,” he said.
As Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran for the UN Human Rights Council, Jahangir firmly condemned the harassment of journalists in Iran in an October 2017 report. In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which included press freedom and the protection of journalists among its leading causes.
Many Pakistani media and journalists’ organizations have paid tribute to this “human rights icon” on social networks and in the press since her death. The recipient of many awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award, she will continue as an emblem of the struggle for human rights and democracy in Pakistan, RSF believes.
RSF said it shared grief of this leading Pakistani activist’s family and offered its condolences to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.