Govt's apathy towards killings of journalists decried -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Govt’s apathy towards killings of journalists decried

Shahid Husain

Karachi: Senior journalist and anchor person Mazhar Abbas said on Wednesday 80 journalists had been killed in Pakistan after 9/11, but the government paid no heed to attacks on journalists or to their killings.

“It’s unfortunate that not only the government pays no heed to attacks and killings of journalists, but the organisations they work for also look the other way,” he lamented, speaking at a roundtable.

The roundtable titled “Attacks on Journalists and Media Freedom” was organised by the South Asian Media Commission-Pakistan, the South Asian Free Media Association and the Karachi Press Club.

Abbas said: “If a journalist is killed while performing his professional duties, it’s the responsibility of the organisation he works for to look after his family, not [of] the government. The responsibility of the government is to investigate the case.”

He added that as journalists “it’s our responsibility to investigate the killing of fellow journalists”. Abbas pointed out that killings of journalists in Pakistan started in 1979 when three journalists were killed in Khairpur. “Today I was amused to go through a statement made by Interior Minister Rahman Malik in which he has vowed to constitute a commission to investigate the killing of 89 journalists,” he said. “I went to him at least 25 times urging him to do something in this regard but there was no response.”

He remarked that subeditors and editors forgot how sensitive an event was while making a headline and this endangered the reporter’s life. Dr Chisti of Balochistan was killed due to an inaccurate headline on his column when he reported the killing of nationalist Baloch leader Balach Marri, he maintained.

Abbas pointed out that the irresponsibility of anchor persons was more pronounced at TV channels where they did not realise how precarious the situation of a reporter was from where he was giving a beeper. The absence of professional training of anchor persons was one of the factors that led to their asking questions that could endanger the reporter’s life, he said.

Abbas opined that target killings of journalists were likely to increase since fair reporting was appreciated neither by rulers nor by media tycoons.

President Karachi Press Club (KPC) Tahir Hasan Khan said journalists from across the country had gathered at the venue because their lives were in danger. He pointed out that there were different pressure groups, including political parties, sectarian and ethnic organisations, which exerted pressure on media. He said that even if such elements were arrested by security agencies, media organisations refrained from publishing the names of the culprits.

“The government has failed to contain these pressure groups,” he lamented. Veteran journalist, a former student leader of Punjab and Safma chief Imtiaz Alam said his organisation called a “closed door” conference of journalists in Islamabad some time ago, and it was strange that while journalists from Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa were quite vocal and named groups involved in terrorism, those from Karachi refrained to do so. He said it was high time organisations involved in the target killing of journalists were exposed.

Veteran journalist M. Ziauddin said groups and organisations involved in the killing of journalists should be named but only in “closed door” sessions.

Former KPC office-bearer Saeed Sarbazi said he had to face a lot of difficulties when he organised an event at the press club on slain Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and “missing” people in Balochistan. He said he was picked up by security agencies and tortured for four days. He said he was released when they found he was innocent.

A Pakistan Review 2011 of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) distributed on the occasion said: “International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls Pakistan the single most dangerous place for journalism profession and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) tags it one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists.”

It further said: “Threats to the safety of journalists, especially those working in the conflict areas, are mounting against the backdrop of the Pakistani state’s fight against militants. Journalists find it difficult to perform their duties. While militants target them with impunity, fingers are also raised at the role of the state agencies in their kidnapping and killing.”

Source: The News