UN PLAN of ACTION will make a difference to the safety of journalists in coming days. Says Annual Press Freedom Report of Rural Media Network Pakistan

Pakistan is still rated one of the most dangerous place for journalists in the world to practice journalism, where eighteen journalists and one media worker had been killed since January 2012 to 30th April 2013.Ten journalists and one media workers lost their lives in 2012 while eight were killed during current year through specific targeting or those who lost their lives in deliberate related violence (such as suicide attacks and bomb blasts). This was disclosed in the Annual Press Freedom Report of the Press Freedom Organization, Rural Media Network Pakistan released by its President Ehsan Ahmed Sehar on the eve of World Press Freedom Day (May3, 2013).Report says that common thing that ties killing of all 93 journalists from 2000 to April 2013 (except Daniel Pearl of Wall Street Journal) is that their killers have never been found, prosecuted or punished. Nor the state, not the media organizations they worked for and nor their families have been able to pursue justice, which allows for the killing of journalists——- and non-fatal but dangerous and disturbing intimidation and harassment ——to go unabated, it added. RMNP report reveals that the scale of impunity against journalists in Pakistan is staggering. According to data over 2000 journalists have experienced harassment, intimidation, kidnap, arrest, detention. assault and injury since January 2000.Without invoking the legal process, impunity can not begin to be scaled down. Most journalists killed come from lower income backgrounds because of which after they are killed their families can not pursue the vagaries of expensive and confusing justice system in Pakistan. This promoted impunity and allowed anyone to threaten and target journalists because they know they can get away with murder. Journalists often complain about receiving threats, including from the country’s intelligence agencies which can lead to violent attacks against them. Investigations, when commissioned, tend to lack credibility and recent case of GEO TV channel reporter Wali Khan Baber who was shot dead in Karachi on January 13, 2011, saw the murder of all six witnesses who were willing to testify against the five dependants. According to report, former PPP Sindh government did nothing to protect these witnesses despite the directions of Sindh High Court, resultantly there were eliminated one by one. The last surviving witness, Haider Ali was shot dead in his home in Karachi on 11 November 2012.The cold-blooded murders of the eye-witnesses have make it impossible for the authorities to successfully conclude the trial and  dashed all hopes of justice in this case.


The areas bordering Afghanistan-FATA -Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are still dangerous areas for journalists, while Balochistan is most deadly place for journalists in Pakistan where four journalists have been killed during current year while three lost their lives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Journalists hailing from Balochistan province face violence and threats from ethnic, sectarian and separatist groups as well as from security forces and intelligence agencies. Tribal leaders, militants, district administrations, political agents and security agencies ask journalists in FATA, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to get clearance from them before filing their news to both print and electronic media. It has also been disclosed in RMNP report that 35 journalists have been killed in Baluchistan province so far out of which the heirs of  majority slain journalists have not yet been compensated.


Situation in the country’ biggest Punjab province is not even better  where a young female journalist Seemab bibi committed suicide by jumping from the fourth storey of a hotel in provincial capital Lahore on August 15, 2012  over nonpayment of her several months salary while many anchorpersons and senior journalists were threatened by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. A high-profile Pakistani journalist and television anchor Hamid Mir escaped an assassination bid on 26 November 2012 when police defused a bomb planted under his car in Islamabad. Similarly in small towns a large number of journalists were detained, injured, threatened and implicated in false cases on their reporting.


South Punjab, a home of 50 million people remained in the grip of religious extremism and sectarian violence during lat year. Law enforcement agencies have arrested dangerous terrorists from various areas of South Punjab who are activists of banned religious organizations including their mastermind a PHD degree holder. Suicide jackets, hand grenades, mine, and explosive material in heavy quantity was also recovered from an area seven kilometers away where RMNP is based. This situation demands strict safety precautions from media men. They put their life in danger to cover different assignments. Religious extremism is spreading in different parts of the country. There are many sectarian organizations fighting for domination. Former Bahawalpur province is a part of South Punjab where militants have strong base. Religious extremists force journalists to cover their speeches and pressurize them to publish their news word by word. A man was burnt alive in Chanigoth town of Bahawalpur province last year where TV channels reporters received threatening messages from extremists on cell phones. Rural journalists in various parts of former Bahawalpur province and feudal dominated areas of South Punjab face three major problems and put their life in danger while they report on sectarian extremism, honor killings and corruption of feudals and government functionaries.


The security of the media persons remained a big question during 2012, and no proper steps have been taken to provide security by the authorities and even by the media houses. The attitude of media houses was more indifferent towards the safety and security of journalists as compare with the authorities. The journalists who are involved in their professional duties in the conflict areas are more vulnerable and exposed before the law enforcement agencies, militant groups and other non state actors. The majority of the journalists are under paid or allowed only to use ID cards of the channels they work for and have to arrange their own earnings.


Details of the killings of eight Pakistani journalists up to 30th April, 2013   have also been mentioned in RMNP Annual Press Freedom Report. On 11th January 2013,in Quetta the capital of Balochistan province, three journalists,Imran Sheikh a cameraman for the television station Samaa News,Mohammad Iqbal,a photographer of News agency NNI and SaifurRehman reporter Samaa TV channel lost their lives in two bomb blasts while Mohammad Hassan, a photographer of News agency INP and two satellite engineers also sustained injuries. The trucks of two television stations Geo TV and Samaa News were badly damaged in these twin attacks. As per monitoring of the RMNP,Khushnood Ali Sheikh,a reporter of official news agency Associated Press of Pakistan was killed in road accident in Karachi capital of Sindh province on 25 February.President  Karachi Union of Journalists G.M.Khan alleged that it was  a  planned conspiracy to eliminate Khushnood Ali Sheikh who had received threats from  extortionists and had informed Interior Minister Rehman Malik about them in writing. On 27th February, in Miran Shah, North Waziristan, Malik Mumtaz Khan Correspondent of Daily Jang and GEO TV channel was gunned down by armed men waiting in vehicle. Slain Malik Mumtaz Khan was elected president of Press Club Miran Shah.Tehreek -e-Tailban spokesman denied that it was not involved in his killing. On first March, Mehmood Khan Afridi,a correspondent for the newspaper Intikhab was shot dead by unidentified motorcycle riders in Kalat,in the southwestern province of Balochistan.56 years old Afridi was president press club Kalat and associated with profession of journalism since 1995.Kalat police have termed his murder as target killing. On April 16,One journalist Tariq Aslam was killed and two others journalists Azhar Ali Shah and Ehtisham Khan  received injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself  on the arrival of Ex-Federal Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour  in Awami National Party  election Rally in Yekka Toot area of Peshawar. Slain journalist Tariq Aslam was Sub-Editor in Daily Pakistan while wounded journalist Azhar Ali Shah is also serving in Daily Pakistan as Sub-editor and other injured Ehtisham Khan associated with Express News.Slain journalist Tariq Aslam left behind a widow and four kids. .On 29th April Arif Shafi, a 37 year old Peshawar-based freelance journalist, lost his life killed in the deadly explosion. Shafi had stopped to buy a newspaper after dropping his son to school when the bomb exploded. Shafi was working as an editor for the English Pajhwok Afghan News in Kabul. He is survived by a wife and three children. In Quetta, four newspapers Jang, Express,Mashriq , Intikhab  and TV news station GEO were accused of violating terrorism laws and a case registered against these four dailies publishers, editors and reporters on the charge of publishing a statement of outlawed organization  about the murder  of Deputy Superintendent Police Ameer Mohammad Dasti.RMNP Annual Press Freedom Report says that, in March 2013 law enforcing agencies arrested a banned organization “activist identified as  Qari Abdul Hye alias Asadullah from his hide out situated in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Karachi. Reportedly he was involved in the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. RMNP report further says that 180 million inhabitants of Pakistan were enjoying freedom of expression  to some extent, but Official Secret Act 1923 and Safety and Telegraph Act are still operative, similarly a draft for legislation on access to information is kept pending before the government and media houses. However report hailed decision to implement UN Plan of Action in Pakistan as first phase country and hoped that it will make a difference to the safety of journalists in coming days.

Journalists Killed during 2012 in Pakistan

1 20 November 2012  Saqib Khan
2 18 November 2012  Rehmatllah Abid
3 3 October 2012  Musthaq Khand
4 29 September 2012  Abdul Haq Baloch
5 21 September 2012  Aamir Liaquat (TV Channel Driver)
6 28 May,2012  Abdul Qadir Hijazi
7 19May,2012  Abdul Razzak Gul
8 10 May,2012  Aurangzeb Tunio
9 8 May,2012  Tariq Kamal
10 19 April 2012  Murtaza Razvi
11 17 January 2012  Mukarram Khan Atif


Similar Posts