Journalists demand more protection from authorities

January 29, 2013 - 1:15:05 am

KARACHI: Terming Pakistan the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, speakers at a media workshop in the southern port city of Karachi said yesterday that 65 journalists had been killed in the country over the past five years.

Speaking on the first day of the  two-day consultative workshop on ‘Combating impunity: Defending Pakistani media and journalist against attacks’ organised by a non-governmental organisation, the Intermedia Pakistan, they said that on an average one journalist was killed in every 28 days.

They called for a legal framework and mechanism to effectively counter the impunity enjoyed by culprits and criminals and deal with them sternly and quickly according to the law.

They said that the Reporters without Borders, an international organisation, had ranked Pakistan as the most dangerous country in the world for the past two years — 2011 and 2012.

They said the number of journalists killed in the country over the past 12 years totalled 94.

Lawyer Asad Jamal said that over 60 journalists had been shot at a close range.

He said Balochistan had topped the list as the most dangerous place for journalists in Pakistan, and 28 journalists had been killed there in 12 years.

He said that 23 were killed in Sindh in the same period.

He lamented that only in the case of American journalist Daniel Pearl proper investigations were conducted and criminals arrested, prosecuted and convicted.

The only other example in which some progress was made was the Syed Saleem Shahzad murder case in which a commission was formed and it submitted its recommendations, Jamal added.

He said that an environment of impunity had emboldened criminals who were sure that they could get away with the killing of journalists.

He said that similar situations in many countries had forced the United Nations to adopt a resolution, calling upon member states to put in place mechanism so that journalists could work freely, because each killed or neutralised by terror was one less observer of human conditions and every attack distorted the reality by enforcing self-censorship.

He said the UN had also called for prevention mechanisms and action to address some of the root causes of violence against journalists and impunity enjoyed by culprits.

He said Mexico, where 57 journalists had been killed in the past 10 years, had taken a lead and set up a special prosecutor’s office to deal with cases relating to journalists.

But in Pakistan, he said, in many cases even FIRs were not registered.

Advocate Aftab Alam suggested that laws specifically dealing with violence against journalists should be enacted and hearings held regularly. 

He also suggested that a network of the legal fraternity be established so that journalists, if attacked, could get legal assistance.

Representatives of the journalist community were of the view that in most cases employing organisations, which had high stakes, as well as the state rarely supported them when they were attacked and they had been left defenceless, making them more vulnerable.

They criticised the role of the state and said that all witnesses in the case of murdered journalist Wali Babar had been killed and no action had been taken.

Karachi Union of Journalists President G M Jamali said that laws were there and the real issue was how to make the state enforce them.