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KARACHI, 2nd November 2017: Representatives from various journalist and civil society bodies expressed grave concerns over the continued threats to journalists’ lives in Pakistan and urged the government to take immediate actions to end prevailing impunity for crimes against media. The speakers were gathered at Karachi Press Club in an event to mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Participation of this event passed a declaration, formalising demands to the federal and provincial governments to put an end to impunity. The journalists demanded that the government should expedite the investigations and prosecution in the pending cases of attacks on journalists, initiate of judicial inquiry in the case of Shan Dahar, a journalist with Ab Tak TV, killed in Larkana in 2013, make Hamid Mir and Saleem Shahzad commission reports public, enact meaningful legislation for journalist safety and take steps to protect journalists in Balochistan.
The event was co-organised by Pakistan Press Foundation, Media Matters for Democracy and Karachi Press Club to highlight the ongoing threats and attacks faced by the journalists in Pakistan and discuss possible solutions. Speakers at the event remained extremely concerned about the situation in Balochistan. Anwar Sajdi, a senior journalist from Balochistan said that after going after journalists, enemies of media in Balochistan are now killing the newspaper industry itself. “No papers have been published in Balochistan for the last nine days. The government has stopped giving advertisements to papers and the whole of print media is now at risk”.
Speaking at the event Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of Pakistan Press Foundation shared the findings of 2017 report on impunity for crimes against journalists. He noted that the trends of violence towards journalists are as present as ever. “In addition to the physical security issues, the government itself is now showing that there is no tolerance towards dissent”, he said, “PEMRA is getting more strict. Cybercrime law is being used to silence journalists and even the law of defamation is being strengthened”. Ali also lamented the lack of a united voice in media.
Maqsoos Yousfi, General Secretary, Karachi Press Club, “ said that, “The government is not serious to resolve to this matter. We have to pressurise the government by raising our united voice”. Faheem Siddiqui, General Secretary Karachi Union of Journalists, KUJ, repeated the sentiment and said “all the forces are afraid of our unity, repeated the sentiment. If we get united and raise our voices together, there is no doubt that we will be able to tackle this issue”. Hamid ur Rehman, Secretary General, Karachi Union of Journalists (Dastoor) said that “We have to take a unified stance for journalists. We have to pressurise owners that all media workers going to cover terrorist incidents and such should be provided security and protective gear”.
Fouzia Dahar, sister of slain journalist Shan Dahar shared her experience and frustration with the investigative process. They also expressed sadness over the abandonment they faced from media organisations and asked for support and solidarity.
The speakers also discussed the need for legislative and policy measures to fight impunity. Aleena Alavi, senior partner and Lo Bono Law said that, “In addition to a specialised law there is also a need to discuss amendments in existing legal instruments particularly the Code of Criminal Procedure, CrPC and the law of evidence”.
Sadaf Khan, Director Programs, Media Matters for Democracy expressed concern over the lack of transparency around the journalist safety legislation and said that, “the government has been talking about a consultative process and has held multiple meetings with stakeholders. However, there is complete secrecy surrounding the actual draft of the bill. Despite various requests nobody has been given access to the amended draft”.
Other eminent speakers at the event included Siraj Ahmed, President of Karachi Press Club, Sohail Afzal, General Secretary of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Tahir Hassan Khan, former President of Karachi Press Club, Idrees Bakhtiyar, a senior journalist working with Geo , Dr. Jabbar Khattak, a senior journalist and Anwar Sajdi.