Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.
The safety of journalists is vital for societies and democracies to have access to diverse and independent information. It is also to promote intercultural dialogue, peace and good governance. However, unfortunately, in the last eleven years, 930 journalists have been killed for carrying out their task of informing the public, according to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These figures do not include other crimes against journalists such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, intimidation or harassment.
It is worrisome that 90 percent of the murders go unpunished. This impunity harms society as a whole by covering up corruption, serious human rights abuses and many other crimes. The type of news that is “silenced” is exactly the kind of information that public opinion needs. In addition, it has a frightening effect on the whole society and, in particular, on the journalists themselves; impunity emboldens criminals and leads to more violence, thus establishing a vicious circle.
To put an end to this impunity, the General Assembly adopted a resolution urging the Member States of the United Nations to do everything possible to prevent violence against journalists and media workers and to ensure that the authors of that act violence render accounts before justice. The resolution also establishes this International Day to raise public awareness of the seriousness of this matter.
Pakistan continues to be one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism due to frequent attempts to restrict press freedom and the myriad difficulties that prevent the expansion of media diversity and restrict access to the media. information.
The tense and uncertain security conditions, the risks generated by terrorist and extremist activities, the growing political influence and the weak role of democratic institutions, including the Legislative Power and the Judiciary, are the main reasons for the lamentable state of freedom Press in Pakistan.
In order to address this problem, editors and new directors of a large number of Pakistani newspapers and TV channels came together to create Editors for Security, an organization focused exclusively on issues of violence and threats against the media.
In 2015, Pakistan ranked 159th out of 180 countries listed in the World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The organization is based on the concept that an attack against a professional or a means is an attack against everyone. It also encourages all organizations to speak with one voice against the culture of impunity, which allows Pakistani journalists to suffer constant attacks and for aggressors to remain unpunished.
The former Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Javed Jabbar, applauded the creation of Editors for Security and remarked: “At present, not only insurgents attack freedom of the press and journalists in this country. The political, religious, ethnic and police entities also do it “.
In 2015, Pakistan ranked 159th out of 180 countries listed in the World Press Freedom Index , published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
This country has been a “front line state” for almost four decades, which polarized society and affected the population’s sense of security. The war in Afghanistan made the border areas, such as the provinces of Jiber Pajtunjwa, Balochistan and the northeastern tribal areas, the most dangerous to practice journalism.
Freedom of expression in this country, and in particular in the northeastern region, besieged by terrorism, has deteriorated in recent years, in part because extremist groups threaten journalists trying to practice their profession.
The extremist religious fighters persecute the press because they consider that they do not respect their religion and harm it under the pretext of freedom of expression.
On March 28, 2014, television presenter Raza Rumi, also a blogger and acclaimed political and security analyst in Pakistan, narrowly escaped an attack by armed men who opened fire on his car, although his driver, Mustafa, died. .
Rumi decided to move to the United States shortly after the attack, prompted by his liberal positions in politics, society, culture, insurgency, human rights and persecution of religious minorities.
On November 30 of last year, a journalist and three other workers of Din Media, based in Lahore, and who has a television channel and a newspaper in Urdu, were killed by strangers who threw a grenade at their office in that city. city, the capital of Punjab and the second most populated in the country with 20 million people.
The attack sparked protests by journalists across the country. The prime minister promised to bring those responsible for the attack to justice and to improve security measures in the offices of the media and for professionals.
Afzal Butt, president of the Federal Union of Journalists of Pakistan (PFUJ, in English) told IPS: “We convey the deep concern of the press community regarding the deterioration of press freedom for the prime minister and the ministers of federal and provincial information. ”
“We also remind them of their commitment to protect the lives of journalists and freedom of expression in this country. But it fell on deaf ears, “Butt lamented.
International organizations, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and RSF, often report the situation in their annual reports.
Around 57 journalists were killed in the exercise of their profession between 1992 and 2015, hundreds more suffer harassment, torture and kidnapping, according to the latest data from CPJ, based in New York.
In its 2015 report, CPJ ranked Pakistan in the sixth place among the most dangerous countries for journalists.
Pakistan ranks nine out of 180 countries listed in CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, which lists states where journalists are killed and those responsible remain unpunished.
“The threats, attacks and killings of journalists in Pakistan are a clear demonstration of the seriousness of how the situation has degenerated due to the growing culture of impunity,” said Mazhar Abbas , former deputy director of Ary News TV, in the southern city of Karachi, and well-known defender of press freedom.
The good news is that this country has taken some measures to face impunity through legal actions and the institutionalization of mechanisms to address the problem.
For example, two arrests and convictions brought some relief to the families affected by the killing of television journalists Wali Jan Babar, who died in Karachi in 2011, and Ayub Jattak, who suffered the same fate in the Karak district. the troubled province of Jiber Pajtunjwa.
The cases progressed thanks to the tireless efforts of the families of the victims, the press unions and the pressure of civil society organizations with the cooperation of the government and justice, said the general secretary of PFUJ, Jursheed Abbasi.
The judicial commission created to investigate the assassination attempt of the well-known television journalist Hamid Mir, linked to Islamabad’s Geo News TV, is part of that movement.
Also, in April 2015, the government of Balochistan announced the creation of two courts to investigate six cases of journalists killed between 2011 and last year.
Another positive development occurred on March 9, 2015, when the Islamabad High Court confirmed the conviction against Mumtaz Qadri, murderer of editor Salman Taseer, of the English-language newspaper Daily Times, under article 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Qadri, his security guard in Islamabad in January 2010, murdered Taseer, who was then governor of Punjab.
“The free press is a fundamental foundation for a sustainable and effective democracy. Any effort to curtail it will only weaken democracy and democratic institutions, “warned journalist and lawmaker Mushahid Hussain Syed.
Political leaders must realize that supporting initiatives that defend press freedom at all levels will end up benefiting the political authorities themselves, he said.
You can see the full list of terrorist attacks on Journalists in Pakistan here.