KARACHI: The team of Editors for Safety (EFS) in collaboration with the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) launched the Pakistan Journalists Memorial website on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which is marked on Nov 2, at the Karachi Press Club on Monday.
EFS is a collective forum of editors and news directors representing a large number of newspapers, TV channels and online news portals that focuses exclusively on issues related to violence and threats of violence against the media in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Journalists Memorial is an EFS project that aims to highlight atrocities committed against media professionals in Pakistan, as well as recognise the contribution and sacrifice of the brave individuals who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Established in 2015 by eight to nine newspaper editors, EFS works towards addressing the alarming level of insecurity faced by media professionals, by means of a basic philosophy that recognizes an attack on one journalist or media house as an attack on the entire media.
The online archive will provide a permanent, updated record of cases that capture the impunity with which perpetrators of such violence operate. It also serves as a reminder to the state to fulfill its duties, ensure justice is served, and end this cycle of intimidation.
While telling more about the website https://editorsforsafety.org/ through his presentation, Jahanzaib Haque, editor of Dawn.com, who designed the site, explained that it was not the first memorial created by his team.
“The first one like it was about the Army Public School attack victims, information for which was not easy to gather because it was so painful. The next one was about the Quetta attack on lawyers in which we also lost journalists. Here, the PFF did most of the work, which was also not easy as it required sensitivity,” he said.
“I don’t usually do the writing and edits for our website but for this particular site, I personally sat down to do all that. The data, the stories of each fallen journalist is horrifying, it affects you,” he said.
“These are real stories for which we have put up the fallen journalists’ photographs and their designations. The visuals include interviews with family members but we have taken care not to sensationalise things. The search options tell more about the case summaries and progress. There are filters that tell you within seconds the number of cases or where they took place,” he said.
“In 90 per cent of the cases we don’t even know who the attacker was. But somewhere someone must be held accountable for it,” he said.
“There is also a need to have all this data not just in English but Urdu, Sindhi and all provincial languages as well, in order to increase accessibility,” he said.
Earlier, senior journalist Ghazala Fasih explained that according to figures shared by PPF, 76 journalists have been murdered since 2002. “Journalism is not a crime but the powers that be cannot always tolerate the truth and silence the voices of the whistleblowers,” she said.
Owais Aslam Ali, secretary general of PPF, said that they had seen too many attacks on freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information over the last six to seven years also in the form of physical threats to journalists.
“The threats to journalists and journalism also include digital threats and policy level threats as the government comes up with ways of throttling the media through online laws and things such as the Pakistan Media Development Authority to enslave the media and make it follow what the states wants it to follow. Our once strong media is getting weak and weaker in the wake of threats about stoppage of advertisements, but this is making us angrier and more charged. We will not lose heart but fight back, we are not those who back off easily”, he said.
Senior journalist Jabbar Khattak said that the need for this website was felt badly. “We want to encourage and celebrate journalists. Likewise, we are thinking of their security and safety and want to make them aware regarding a clean and comfortable environment so that they can do their work well. We also need to pressure the government to fulfill its duty to protect journalists,” he said.
About EFS, its founding chairperson, Editor Dawn Zaffar Abbas said that they were no trade union or NGO. They only stood for the journalists’ community. “There is the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. All do their work. But our only goal is to protect journalists,” he said.
“For several years now, journalism in Pakistan has had this culture of not mentioning any incident involving a journalist belonging to another media house. A small one-column news is carried about some journalist of a private newspaper or channel. But such news has no impact,” he pointed out.
“We want to divert the attention of the government here,” he said while bringing up the example of a Quetta journalist who was picked up by secret agencies a few years ago. “It was airing of the news about his going missing by all media houses simultaneously that had led to his return within two hours,” he said, adding that it also told them that the forum created by them to consider an attack on one journalist as an attack on the entire media was working effectively.
“So we also thought of making this website about journalists fallen in the line of duty. One should not forget that their killers are still at large and also remind the government to catch them and bring them to justice,” he said.