Pakistan Reader# 529, 21 January 2023
On 20 January, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi told the Senate that 42 journalists were killed in Pakistan in the last four years. As per data from the information ministry, 15 of the journalists hailed from Punjab, 11 from Sindh, 13 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and three from Balochistan. The cause of death for these journalists ranged from being shot dead, targeted, killed by terrorists and many untraced. With regard to the perpetrators, in Punjab, data showed that seven suspects were arrested out of which two were currently out on bail. In Sindh, four suspects had been arrested while seven were facing trial. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two suspects were acquitted, four were facing trial and one suspect was on the run. In Balochistan, two suspects had escaped, one was facing trial, one suspect was sentenced and one suspect was facing an investigation.
The plight of Journalists in Pakistan
Journalists in Pakistan are no strangers to dangerous working conditions. The country ranks as one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, with cases being reported almost every year. In 2022, the International Federation of Journalists listed Pakistan as the fifth most dangerous country in the world report in. In 2021, Reporters Without Borders said Pakistan’s drop of 12 points in the Press Freedom Index with Imran Khan given the title of “press predator.” In the recent past, television news anchor Arshad Sharif was shot dead in Kenya in mysterious circumstances. Others include, Anwar Jan Khetiran, Taha Siddiqui, Hamid Mir, Raza Rumi, Sajid Hussain, Saleem Shahzad and Daniel Pearl among others who have either been killed, narrowly escaped death or currently live in exile.
Government’s action on protecting journalist
Pakistan was one of the five pilot countries to implement the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in October 2013. Later, Pakistan committed to implementing in the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021. Under this act media owners have to provide their employees with safety training a) a month into their employment and b) “prior to engaging in reporting or any journalistic work in any location.” It then goes on to specify the kinds of training needed for journalists working in dangerous locations: health and environmental hazards training (HEHT), avoidance, deterrence and escape training (ADET) and kidnapping and crises responses training (KCRT).
In October 2022, Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 report which was released in the context of the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity showed that there have been no convictions in 96 per cent of murder cases of journalists in Pakistan between 2012 and 2022. According to the report, 53 Pakistani journalists were killed between 2012 and 2022, however, in only two cases were the perpetrators convicted. The report revealed further that the criminal justice system failed to deliver justice for the slain journalists and their bereaved families
The report added that more than half of the journalists did not inform their media employers, press club, union or local authorities about receiving threats. Additionally, less than 10 per cent of journalists who received death threats before being murdered informed their media employers, press club, union or local authorities. In most cases, even if there was advance warning, the system and relevant stakeholders were unable to prevent the murders.
Nadir Guramani, “42 journalists killed in Pakistan in past 4 years, Senate told,” Dawn, 21 January 2023
Ikram Junaidi, “Pakistan partly delivered on promises to protect journalists: report,” Dawn, 5 December 2022
Muna Khan, “MEDIA: THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS,” Dawn, 6 October 2022
Ikram Junaidi, “No convictions in 96pc of journalist killings in Pakistan: report,” Dawn, 28 October 2022