‘Press freedom hampered by attacks on journalists’
KARACHI: The impunity enjoyed by those who attack journalists is hampering press freedom in Pakistan and all stakeholders, including media organisations, the government and civil society should join hands to devise some mechanisms for better safety of working journalists, said speakers at a roundtable meeting held here on Saturday evening.
The round table discussion on ‘Impunity to those who attack journalists’ was organised by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) at a local hotel.
UNESCO director in Pakistan Dr Kozue Kay Nagata was the chief guest.
Journalists from all four provinces of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir who had personally witnessed incidents of violence narrated their testimonies.
Dr Nagata said she was saddened to hear the testimonies of journalists who had faced violence, intimidation and other hardships while discharging their professional responsibilities.
She said that the Pakistani journalists were victims of circumstances that were both local and global in nature.
She said there was a necessity to protect journalists and UNESCO would highlight the issue at appropriate forums for benefit of journalists. She said that only the government or international bodies could not provide protection to them, but the support of an educated and enlightened civil society was necessary.
Dr Nagata said in Pakistan journalists were being targeted because they were powerful opinion leaders and influenced major events of their country.
PPF secretary general Owais Aslam Ali noted that violence against journalists was on the rise in the whole world.
During the past 10 years about 500 journalists had been killed in various parts of the world and in 90 per cent of these cases journalists were murdered, he added.
In Pakistan during the past 10 years some 40 journalists had been killed and 12 of them were murdered, he said, adding that sadly not a single case of these murders was properly investigated.
Referring to the “Freedom of Expression Monitoring Project”, he said that UNESCO was working for promoting press freedom in Pakistan. He said a day should be observed on the global level against ‘impunity to those who attack journalists’.
He said that this trend would likely to continue and journalists should have to unite so that their attackers could be punished.
He said: “We cannot win press freedom unless we succeed in getting punished the killers of journalists in Pakistan.” He said the frenzy of daily based political controversies on Pakistani electronic media made many to think that Pakistani journalists enjoyed a lot of freedom; however, the reality was that they could not even report freely on what was happening in FATA, tribal areas and Balochistan.
He said even in urban areas political parties and other entities set limits for journalists about what to cover and what not to.
He said this pressure and intimidation had forced journalists to adopt a self-censorship which further limited the little press freedom they enjoyed.
“If there is no press freedom in society, it will promote rumour-based media, a phenomenon being witnessed by Pakistani TV channels nowadays,” he said.
Shahzada Zulfiqar of Balochistan, Muhammad Dawar and Muhib from FATA, Abdul Salam Soomro, Sohail Sangi and Imran Shervani from Sindh, Syed Afraz Gardezi from Azad Kashmir, senior journalist Idrees Bakhtiar and others also spoke.
On the occasion, it was announced that the slain reporter of Khuzdar, Balochistan, Muhammad Khan Sasoli, was selected by a panel of judges for PPF Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award for the year 2011, carrying a cash award of Rs100,000.
The judges include Kamal Siddiqi, Methab Akbar Rashdi and Mazhar Abbas from Karachi, Absar Alam from Islamabad, Faseeh Iqbal from Quetta and Sohail Sangi from Hyderabad.
Muhammad Khan Sasoli, a reporter at Khuzdar of the INP Independent News Network, was assassinated on the evening of December 14, 2010 near his home as he was returning from the Khuzdar press club after sending news to his news agency.
Dr Kozue Kay Nagata, on the occasion, handed the cheque to the widow Taj Bibi.