Almost three and half years passed but still those moments are fresh and circulating in memory of Muhammad Ansar, a local reporter of Tando Muhammad Khan, one of the district of lower Sindh, around 300 Kilo Meters away from Karachi largest city of Pakistan.
Ansar was beaten, humiliated and detained by Police force while he was covering protest of labourers against “Seri Sugar Mill” administration on December 20, 2015 at Tando Muhammad Khan.
Journalists in Pakistan believe that no amelioration, situation is turning bad to worse for journalism.
Around 699 attempted attacks were reported against journalists during 2002 to 2019, reveals Pakistan Press foundation (PPF).
Muhammad Ansar had been continuing his journalism profession in such an insecure environment, where no law exists to protect the journalists.
Ansar said, he was assigned to cover the protest however, heavy contingent of Police was deployed around the venue of the protest.
Police stopped him to cover, snatched his camera, cell phone and detained him for two hours, he explains his ordeal, stated.
“Police personnel terrorized me so much that I remained in trauma for more than two months, he said.” Adding that he was so panicked that even he thought to leave the journalism, but could not do so as I have firm belief that journalism is a noble profession.
Ansar said that he felt dejected when, no action was taken against culprits because no law exists to protect journalists during their professional duties.
He approached the Police station to register the complaint and lodge the case against responsible but was refused and finally the issue was wrapped up on the intervention of senior and high officials of Police, said Ansar.
He thought best to excuse them rather taking risk further enmity with police force.
He felt more disappointed when his media organisation only limited itself to support him verbally and actually did nothing to support him financially when he was passing through trauma.
Ansar wasn’t first and last journalist who was assaulted during coverage as this is very common against journalists in Pakistan.
According to press freedom index 2018, released by Reporter without Borders Pakistan ranks 143 out of 180 countries with score 45.83 which reflects Pakistan is one of the dangerous country for journalists (https://rsf.org/en/ranking/2019#
Situation is deteriorating further, during the 2019 compared to 2018. Pakistan was 139 in rank during 2018, it dropped further -3 in rank with score -2.59 which show that situation is on way to deterioration rather than improving.
I myself fell victim to maltreatment at the hands personnel of Counter terrorism Department (CTD). They physically assaulted, manhandled me, snatched my cell and even torn down my cloths while I was doing the coverage within the premises of Sindh High Court a higher judicial forum of Sindh a southern province of Pakistan.
I just received the phone calls from well-wishers, expressing sympathy with me but didn’t see any union of journalists to come forward to protest against the action of CTD personnel.
According to report released by PPF that their organization has recorded 699 cases of assault against journalists, in which 48 cases are attempts to kill journalists during the 2002 to 2019.
Report reveals that 72 journalists killed during last 17 years, 24 Journalists were killed while they were working. Report reveals further that 171 serious were attack and 71 were minor attacks during the same period. Forces arrested 44 journalists and 26 were kidnapped in Pakistan during 2002 to 2019.
Only 37 cases were registered against the assailants, five of them sentenced and yet the execution of these sentences is pending.
Despite promise by political parties, neither any law has been tabled to improve the situation, nor has action been taken to stop violence against journalist in the Sindh.
Some prominent journalists don’t think that any new law is required to protect the journalists as the laws related to protection of citizens of the country are needed to be implemented.
Law exists related to crimes against citizens including journalists, which needs to be implemented in letter and spirit, says Imtiaz Khan Faran, President Karachi press club (KPC).
No law allows to manhandle or kill the journalist while performing their professional duties, Faran said and regretted that state authorities fail to protect journalists and the situation becomes gruesome when personnel of law enforcing agencies, tasked to maintain law and order indulge in violation of the laws, which have been put in place to protect the journalists.
He suggested that responsible for manhandling and killing of journalists should be brought to the justice.
President of KPC further suggested press councils from district to provincial and federal levels, these should be established to deal with these matter and should recommend actions, who are responsible for crimes against journalists. He believed that relevant laws should be immediately amended to deal with it, if needed.
Faran proposed that the Press Councils should have government nominees as well as representatives of journalist community to deal with complaints of journalists and should have also authority to even punish journalists if they are found guilty in any incident.
Sindh Government’s spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab, when he was contacted, said no special law exists to protect journalists and didn’t foresee any special law for journalists in this regard in future as all the citizens of the province are equal and are treated under the same law as far as their protection is concerned, he added.
He said that PPP government is democratic government and is very much sensitive about the protection of citizens including journalists.
Barrister Murtaza Wahab said, safety and Security of journalists is top priority because media is integral part of democracy, adding whenever safety and security issues are raised regarding the journalists, provincial government takes immediate action for relief.
Wahab ruled out any especial law for journalists, although he advocates the suggestion to establish council to resolve the issues regarding journalists.
Spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab also invited journalists’ organization to discuss if they have any draft for legislation regarding the protection of journalists.