Another journalist’s murder
That Pakistan is a dangerous place for journalists is obvious from the fact that as many as 17 journalists and media workers were killed last year alone.
This year has barely begun and already a TV/radio broadcaster, Mukarram Khan Atif, has lost his life in the line of duty.
Working for a private TV channel and a Washington-based Pashto language radio, Mukarram had moved from his hometown in the extremists-infested Mohmand Agency to the relative safety of Charsadda where he was gunned down during Maghreb prayers.
The self-styled Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the murder also brandishing the threat, in a text message sent to the tribal areas based media persons that “more killings would come.” That illustrates how dangerous are the working conditions for journalists in Pakistan.
The danger comes not only from the violent extremists in the conflict zone.
As the killings last year of journalists Saleem Shahzad, kidnapped from Islamabad and found murdered some 120 kilometres away in Mandi Bahauddin district; and Wali Khan Babar gunned down in the country’s commercial hub, Karachi, show no place is safe, and that the perpetrators are just as likely to be state agencies as non-state actors.
So far no one has been caught and brought to justice.
That works as an encouragement for more acts of violence, and poses a threat not only to the journalists’ personal safety, but their ability to report objectively.
In the present incident, for instance, Mukarram’s colleagues have said that he had told them that sometimes he used to receive phone calls to be told how to report certain events.
As mentioned earlier, the TTP itself has said that it did not like what he was doing and hence eliminated him.
Some other journalists have reported being subjected to threats from sources other than the extremists.
The situation, therefore, poses a serious challenge not only in terms of journalists’ individual safety and their ability to report objectively, without fear or favour, but also the wider issue of unrestricted flow of information.
So far the authorities concerned have done little to provide protection to those complaining of vulnerability.
In fact Interior Minister Rehman Malik, whose responsibility it is to provide security to all citizens, offered the outrageous advice to media persons, in the wake Wali Babar’s murder, that they should carry weapons for self-defence.
The present incident has been widely condemned, among others by national and international media organisations, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Gilani has also issued a statement to express solidarity with media persons, vowing to apprehend the “perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice.” He must back these words with action.
Unless the perpetrators know they cannot function with impunity, violence against journalists will not come to a stop.
By: Business Recorder