Those who murder, injure and assault journalists are never punished in Pakistan
KARACHI, Nov 1: report on safety of Pakistani media professionals presents a bleak picture of level of insecurity faced by Pakistani journalists and calls of serious efforts by governments and media to change the present situation where those that kill, injure, abduct and threaten journalists are almost never punished.
The Report on Safety of Media Workers released by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) on the International Day on Impunity documents that since 2001, 47 media workers have been murdered, 164 injured, 88 assaulted, 21 abducted and 40 detained. In addition 24 media professionals were died while covering dangerous assignments. There have been convictions in only two cases out of 384 cases of violence against media.
In Pakistan, journalists are killed, unjustly detained, abducted, beaten and threatened by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, militants, tribal and feudal lords, as well as by religious groups and political parties that claim to promote democracy and the rule of law. Adding to the gravity of the situation is the fact that the perpetrators of violence against journalists and media workers enjoy almost absolute impunity from prosecution in Pakistan.
Because of conflicts and insurgencies the number of murders and killings in the highest in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Since 2001, 21 journalists and media workers were killed in Balochistan, 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 9 in FATA and 15 in Sindh, 4 in Punjab and 3 in Islamabad.
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 conflict areas. As a consequence, news reports from conflict areas are based on press releases, not on observations by independent journalists. Thus, new reports that are published or broadcast lack credibility and do not inform the public in an objective manner.
The two convictions by courts were in Sindh for the murder of Daniel Pearl of Wall Street Journal and Wali Babar of Geo Television. In both the cases the federal and provincial governments seriously perused the cases because of pressure from the media organisations of the murdered journalists. The report thus recommends that criminal cases should not only be registered but should also be properly investigated and prosecuted against the perpetrators of violence against media. The report also calls on media itself to take the lead in ensuring safety of media practitioners and to ensure long-term follow up of cases of assault on media organisations and workers.
Apart from murders and killings, the largest number of cases of violence against media occurred in the province of Sindh. Out of a total of 164 journalists and media workers injured and assaulted since 2001, 91 were in Sindh. Surprisingly the second place in these categories with 70 assaults was Islamabad, which was largely due to the assault on large number of media practitioners by supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) during the Dharna in 2014. Forty Eight media practitioners were injured and assaulted in Punjab, 23 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 14 in Balochistan.