Concerned editors were recently involved in a discussion on sideline of their professional duties about the safety and security of media persons, mainly the journalists working in remote parts of the country. They discussed at length the safety and security issues and finally decided to form an unofficial group to keep a close watch against all those elements, including the Government functionaries and pressure groups, responsible for attacking and killing journalists in all parts of Pakistan. The group will supplement the efforts of CPNE, PFUJ and other professional organisations in improving the climate for working journalists so that they should perform their professional duty without any fear.
Today November 2 is being observed as International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists the world over renewing the pledge to work with others providing a better climate for working journalists, particularly those working in the conflict zones the world over.
Pakistani journalists are not only targeted by militants but also by political, religious, ethnic and other pressure groups as well as the law enforcement agencies only to gag the Press and curtail its freedom. Incidents of threats, attacks and killings of journalists in Pakistan are the clear evidence of how critical the situation is due to thriving culture of impunity. For every journalist who has been deliberately targeted and murdered, there are many others who have been injured, threatened and coerced into silence. Attackers and murderers of journalists enjoy impunity, which undermines the freedom of expression in a broader sense.
The threat to journalists has grown dramatically in the past decade since the problem of militancy has grown. The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have posed an ever greater threat to journalists — and to all citizens – since 2002 when, in the wake of 9/11, the Pakistani government began to try to counter their rising influence.
Threats and violence have forced many journalists to move from these danger zones and to leave the profession or to resort to self-censorship, particularly in the conflict areas.
According to research by PPF, since 2001, 71 journalists and media workers have lost their lives while pursuing their duties. Of these 47 have been deliberately targeted and murdered for practicing their profession, while others were killed while covering dangerous assignments. In only two cases have the murderers been convicted by the courts.
However, the figures are much more than the PPF report. Mr. Salim Shahid, a senior Vice President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists claimed that 47 journalists were killed in Balochistan since Pervez Musharraf took over power in 1999 to this date.
In most of the cases, the Government functionaries were blamed for the killings while a few of them were killed by the pressure groups. Three journalists belonging to this organisations and another belonging to the Jang Group were targeted and killed by the pressure groups. BLA claimed the responsibility of the killing the journalists accusing all of them Government propagandists. Concerned editors denied that charge immediately. There was no justification for killing a journalist for not being a conformist. On the national basis, there were a few high profile killings or attacking the journalists, including Hayatullah, Saleem Shehzad, Arshad Mastoi and Hamid Mir. With these cases of killing, the prestige of the Government had came to the lowest level as it was suspected to be involved in violence against journalists. It was failure of the Government to arrest any of the culprits involved in murder of journalists in Balochistan. Almost all the cases were hushed up deliberately. Most of the cases pertained to FATA, KPK and Balochistan which are counted in the conflict zones or the security forces involved in efforts to counter terrorism or curb violence by ethic, political and sectarian groups.