Pakistan government must appoint special public prosecutor for speedy trials of killed journalists

Special Report on the eve of International Day to End Impunity

By: Ehsan Ahmed Sehar,President President Rural Media Network Pakistan

Pakistan has been among the top five most dangerous countries in as many years for journalists where .forty journalists have been killed in the line of duty since January 2011, according to the monitoring of the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP), nine journalists have been killed in Pakistan during current year out of which four killed in Balochistan, two in Khyber PakhtunKhwa, two in Karachi one in tribal area bordering Afghanistan. For two years, in 2010 and 2011, Pakistan topped the list of countries with the highest journalists’ death toll in the world with 16 and 20 killed in the respective years. The armed insurgency and sectarian violence claimed the lives of many journalists but several others were killed by drug pushers, ethnic and pressure groups. In some incidents suspicion of state” institutions involvement was raised, while the authorities initiated investigations in some cases, there have been no arrests or prosecutions against the perpetrators of these crimes.

November 23 marks the anniversary of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre, the single deadliest incident for journalists in recent history, in which 58 people – including 32 journalists and media workers – were murdered in the Philippines in a single incident, To date, no perpetrators have been brought to justice, according to IFEX. The biggest challenge apart from direct threat to the life of journalists in Pakistan is a culture of impunity.” In the last 12 years over 100 journalists were killed only in Pakistan including American reporter Daniel Pearl, who was working on a story of shoe bomber, Hayatullah Khan, who first broke the story about the possible drone strikes in Pakistan, Saleem Shahzad, who was doing research on the rising extremism within the security agencies, Musa Khan Khail, who was covering the procession of Islamic cleric  Sufi Mohammad, Munir Sangi, cameraman, killed while covering a tribal feud, Mohammad Ibrahim, killed after he interviewed a Taliban leader, Wali Khan Babar, killed in Karachi allegedly by an ethnic group for his reporting and many others.

Terrorism, religious extremism and sectarian violence are serious issues which demand strict safety precautions for media men. They put their life in danger to cover different assignments. Religious extremism is spreading in different parts of the country including South Punjab. There are many sectarian organizations fighting for domination.  Religious extremists force journalists to cover their speeches against other sects and pressurize them to publish their news word by word. Some of them received threatening text messages from militants on cell phone. Fundamentalism and religious intolerance is increasing in adjoining areas of theformerly princely state Bahawalpur. Risks are mounting day by day and personal safety is becoming a major problem. Moving in militant active areas to get story, without safety precautions is like committing suicide. Reporters in rural areas are back bone of newspapers and private TV channels. Unless fully prepared to protect personal safety, they can’t play their professional role. A safety method during coverage of bomb blasts, cross fire, sectarian violence and emotional mobs is critically important. Security is most important for news gatherers as no story is worthy than life. But a newsman is also expected to cover all aspects of an event while keeping “safety first” in his mind.

In Pakistan there is no comprehensive system to act when a journalist is in distress, kidnapped or tortured. Victims have no contact with the journalist’s bodies active in major cities. Local press clubs are not playing their role as expected so they work in passive conditions. There is urgent need of the establishment of a “Centralized System” to handle complaints against the freedom of press and attacks on journalists. This centre can compile periodic reports for press freedom groups and international media organizations.  Rural journalists who cover 70 percent Pakistani populace, while attempting to exercise their right of free expression have been victims of many forms of attacks, including murder, kidnapping, violence, death threats, raids on homes, legal actions and assault on family. Media houses have also faced serious threats including attacks on offices, banning and suspension of publications, bombing of offices, financial harassment in past. Despite these hurdles Pakistan’ press has refused to be cowed by such threats and during long periods of dictatorship and authoritarian rule, the press has kept alive the hopes of democracy. It has played a leading role in the campaign against human rights abuses by exposing cases of extra judicial killings, rape and torture.

RMNP has paid rich homage to UNESCO, DCMF,WAN-IFRA,RSF,IFJ,CPJ,CJA and other media support groups for raising the voice for Pakistani journalists by issuing alerts, protest letters and facilitating trainings in many parts of the country, but despite these efforts nothing will change unless all media associations work together to improve standard of journalism in Pakistan. The proper training for journalists operating in hostile environment could contribute to minimizing risks and facilitate them in doing their work more effectively and in safe manner. The quest for breaking news is a major reason for the death of media practitioners who lost their lives in the performance of duty. To ensure the safety of journalists, urges that media organizations should only send experienced and trained journalists to cover conflict zones.

RMNP Recommendations

1- The new civilian government should publically declare, they respect the freedom of press and will reopen the cases of journalist’s killings and criminals behind these killings would be taken to the task without any further delay.

2- Special workshops on safety and security for journalists working in rural areas should be arranged in small towns and international media organizations should focus on such areas which are more vulnerable.

3- National and regional newspapers and TV channels should form unity. If a reporter or correspondent of one channel is attacked or killed, other channels avoid mentioning his or his organization’s name while broadcasting the news.

4- Militant, extremist organizations and political parties should be contacted to reduce undue pressure.

5- International journalists’ organizations should be requested to write letters to the media houses to provide security to the staffers working in sensitive areas.

6- Coordination should be improved between news room and field teams as well as with correspondents and contributors on the issue of safety and security.

7- A legal aid mechanism should be evolved and a safety fund should be created.

8- All media houses must formulate standard operating procedures (SOPs) for journalists.

9- An Eminent Group of Journalists should be set up to serve as mediation platform to forge consensus between media and the government authorities on the issue of safety.

10- Special public prosecutor should be appointed to exclusively take up and pursue cases of attacks on media and media workers to promote a culture of justice and accountability in Pakistan to combat impunity.

11- News channels should change their editorial policy and menace of “Breaking News” culture. Sometimes they ask questions which put their correspondent’s life in danger.

12- Media houses should help their staffers to change work place if it is necessary for their security.

13- The owners of newspapers and TV channels should provide complete insurance cover to their correspondents working in sensitive areas.

14- A dependable mechanism must be evolved to identify the dangers and collect the information in rural areas to alert the journalists. RMNP has stressed again and again on this point.

15- The newspapers and private TV channel owners must be taken onboard for security and safety of the journalists and for this purpose the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and other media associations must be contacted.

9 Journalists Killed in Pakistan from January to November,2013

1-      Imran Sheikh  (   Balochistan)                 3-SaifurRehman ( Balochistan)

2-      Muhammad Iqbal ( Balochistan)                 4-Khushnood Ali Sheikh( Karachi,Sindh)

5-   Malik Mumtaz Khan( Miran Shah)                6-Mehmood Ahmed Afridi (Balochistan)

7- Tariq Aslam Durrani(KhyberPakhtunKhwa)       8-Abdul Razzaq Baloch (Karachi Sindh)

9-  Ayub Jan Khattak ( Karak,Khyber PakhtunKhwa)


     (RMNP Monitoring)

International Day to End Impunity in Pakistan


stop-killing-journalists-protest6701A special program is planned jointly by RMNP, National Press Union and Daily Nawa-I-AhmedpurSharqia on November 23  at 3 PM in the premises of Daily AhmedpurSharqia,rural Pakistan where editors, press freedom advocates, academics, journalist unions , and press clubs office bearers have been invited to discuss the impunity issue, implementation of UN Plan of Action  and press freedom related matters.






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