A gloomy picture for journalists in Pakistan, says report -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

A gloomy picture for journalists in Pakistan, says report

Through out the world, May 3 is being celebrated as World Press Freedom Day with the commitment to inform people across the globe about violation of freedom of expression and to remember those who died while performing professional duties. In this connection, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Reporters sans Borders (RSF) have presented a dismal picture of the journalistic community in Pakistan.

According to the PFUJ, none of the nine journalists killed and others who were injured last year while performing their duties – had special training for reporting in dangerous environments and they became victims of authorities and non-state actors. “Journalists, photojournalists and cameramen need safety training and insurance as lack of training to cover dangerous assignments often resulted in their killing or serious injuries as happened last year in case of nine deaths,” it said. Moreover, Violence and curbs on media remained the hallmark of 2007. FATA, Balochistan and Karachi remained ‘dangerous places’ for reporting on conflicts as journalist’s feared attack from both government agencies and from the non-state actors, it said.

The PFUJ said that over 200 journalists were detained last year during the protest against the ban on private TV news channels and FM radio. Four of them were produced in court in chain. However, the PFUJ welcomed the release of Munir Mengal, of Baloch Voice but expressed concern regarding his safety. Moreover, the PFUJ urged the government to declare curbs and attack on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press, as “serious criminal offence,” and it must be protected in the Constitution. Even the Article 19, of the Constitution need amendments as it is vague and often failed to provide protection to press freedom.

On November 3, the previous government banned all the private TV news channels (45 in all) and a couple of radio channels. The ban was lifted after 74 days because of journalist’s struggle. The government also banned six TV anchors even after lifting the ban.

Earlier this year, alleged activists of an ethnic party beat journalists and kidnapped two of them outside the Karachi Press Club. Later they were freed. The journalists were also threatened but the Karachi Union of Journalists and Karachi Press Club held a protest meeting. Later, the ethnic party regretted the incident.

On May 12 last year, the staff members of a private TV channel remained under siege for several hours and unidentified gunmen also fired on the crew members who were filming the violence. They allegedly belonged to an ethnic party, though the party denied involvement of any of their activists. In January last year, resident editor of a daily newspaper and now the President of Kyber Union of Journalists, Khuj Sohail Qalandar was kidnapped from Peshawar and was kept in captivity for 52 days. An extremist organisation Islami Mujahideen gave death threats to three journalists Munawar Afridi of The News, Nisar Afridi and Wazir Afredi of daily Urdu newspapers for their alleged coverage of militant activities in Dara Adamkhel.

A reporter of The New York Times, Carlotta Gall was allegedly manhandled by the intelligence agencies people who entered in her room in Quetta. A Karachi based cameraman Akhtar Somroo, who was also working for three papers was also threatened. Saeed Sarbazi, senior journalist of a daily English newspaper was kidnapped by intelligence agencies and kept in illegal detention for three days, before he was dropped from a truck with hand-cuffed in Karachi.

Situation in Pakistan’s tribal areas of the NWFP, bordering Afghanistan, are still the most dangerous zones for reporting. Reporting become most difficult in the militancy hit areas such as Wana, Wazirstan, Swat and the nearby areas. Journalists also faced difficulties in reporting in many parts of Baluchistan and Interior Sindh, particularly if they report on Baluchistan operation or on forced marriages, jirga in Sindh. Two reporters Latif Khosa and Riaz Mengal were kidnapped in Baluchistan while three reporters left their native towns in Sindh, after reporting on social issues.

The PFUJ also blamed the pressure groups for threatening journalists in different parts of the country. While journalists working in the tribal areas in NWFP regularly complains about threats from militants.
Source: The News
Date:5/3/2008