Karachi: 48 journalists lost their lives in 10 years
KARACHI: At least 48 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan in last ten years and 35 of them were deliberately targeted and murdered because of their work. In 2012 alone, six journalists were killed in the country. This was unveiled in a report released by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) during an event on ‘International Day to end impunity for violence against journalists’ on Friday held at the Press Club. Awais Aslam, director of PPF while addressing the event said that international day to end impunity for violence against the journalists started two years ago.
Sharing the data of the violence against the journalists, Awais Aslam said that current year of 2012 has been remained difficult for the media persons as total 119 journalists have been killed in the world. Syria remained difficult country where 36 journalists have been killed this year, while 16 journalists lost their loves in Somalia in line of duty, he said, adding that situation in Pakistan was not good for journalists as voice of six journalists have been silenced forever in the country this year.While formal criminal complaints (First Information Reports) were lodged, the murders of media workers were not seriously investigated or prosecuted, PPF director said, adding that over the last ten years, the murder of Daniel Pearl, reporter for the US–based Wall Street Journal, was the lone case of murder of journalist in Pakistan where suspects were prosecuted and convicted.
PPF director suggested for establishment of an independent commission comprising professional media organisations, CSOs, press freedom and human rights organizations and professional bodies of lawyers for monitoring criminal investigations and legal follow-up of cases of violence and intimidation of journalists. Other renowned journalists including Idrees Bakhtiar, Farhatullah Khan and others also shared their views and said the Pakistani journalists working in unsatisfactory atmosphere, where their lives always remain under threat from ‘different sides’. Dur-e–Shahwar Channa, Freedom of Expression Coordinator at Pakistan Press Foundation was moderator of the event. Meanwhile, PPF in its report on murder of Pakistani Journalists Pakistani journalists are killed, unjustly detained, abducted, beaten and threatened by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, militants, tribal and feudal lords, as well as, some political parties that claim to promote democracy and the rule of law. Sadly, the perpetrators of violence against journalists and media workers enjoy almost absolute impunity in Pakistan.
Of the 48 journalists killed in the line of duty during these 11 years, 14 were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 12 from Balochistan, nine from Sindh, eight from Federally Administrated Tribal Agencies (FATA), three from Punjab and two from the federal capital, Islamabad, report said. Report noted that because of the Afghanistan war and the so called war on terror, areas bordering Afghanistan – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and FATA — are the most dangerous areas for journalists.PPF, which works for capacity building of the media persons and research in its report said the journalists in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan work under extremely stressful conditions with pressure being wielded by security agencies, militant groups, district administration and tribal leaders. In many instances security agencies or militant organisations require journalists to get ‘clearance’ from them before releasing their new reports. Journalists from Balochistan, in particular, face violence and threats from security and intelligence agencies, as well as, ethnic, sectarian and separatist groups, report added. ‘Pakistani journalists are often caught between competing power centers. For example recently the Balochistan High Court directed journalists not to report news of banned organizations; while these banned organizations exert pressure on local media to give them ‘proper’ coverage’, report said, adding the alarming increase in violence and threats has forced many journalists to migrate from these danger zones. According to some estimates, one-third of FATA journalists has already moved to other areas or gave up the profession.
Report noted that pressure and intimidation has forced the journalists to adopt a self-censorship, particularly in the conflict areas. Because of this self-censorship, the reports emanating from the conflict areas about military action by Pakistani law enforcement agencies, drone attacks by the US forces or attacks by militants are based on press releases and not on observations by independent journalists. Thus, not only human dimensions or horrors of the war being fought in Pakistan are absent from media, but reports that are published or broadcast also lack credibility. This has hindered the development of consensus on the path Pakistan should take to steer the country out of the crisis facing it for last three decades. Pakistan Press Foundation in its report recommended that criminal cases should be registered, investigated and prosecuted against the perpetrators of violence against media, which is unable to control the alarming rise in violence against media, and to end impunity for those who attack journalists and media workers. Besides, local, national and international print, electronic and online media should ensure long-term follow up of cases of assault on media organisations and workers, PPF report emphasized, continuing that journalists should be provided with safety and first aid trainings and guidance on how to report in hostile environment. Journalists working in conflict areas should also be provided with guidance in recognizing and dealing with stress and post-traumatic stress. Safety equipments including bulletproof jackets and medical kits should be given to journalists covering the conflicts as well as threats and attacks can be reduced to some extent by adopting a professional approach and impartial and unbiased reporting. Journalists, especially those in rural areas, should be imparted trainings on writing skills, language proficiency, editing and interviewing techniques to enhance their capabilities, PPF demanded, underscored the need employers should provide journalists life and medical insurance and also compensation in case of death or injury related to their work. As Pakistani journalists are victims of circumstances that are both local and global in nature, the government should also compensate to the families of journalists, killed in the line of duty.