How to protect journalists from attacks -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

How to protect journalists from attacks

Panic buttons, chips, trackers being considered

By Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: As the killing of Saleem Shalizad has alarmed the whole world about the plight of Pakistani journalists who are being killed like stray dogs, international organizations have started working out plans for protection of journalists through panic buttons, hotline contacts and trackers.

While the US government is funding a project designed to produce software called ‘Safe Mobile Panic Button’ that a journalist would use in time of trouble alerting all his contacts.

Likewise, human rights organizations are also looking into these options. “The idea is to forewarn the kidnappers no matter they’re thugs of intelligence agencies. Such measures have been successful in other countries,” said a person involved in such a project.

As for the panic button, the project was though being worked out well before Saleem Shahzad’s killing the pace has been accelerated after this brutal murder with all fingers being pointed towards the ISI, the agency that the deceased had alleged of hurling death threats. The ISI, it may be added, has categorically denied its involvement publicly and has assured full cooperation in a probe.

The panic button project is being funded by the US State Department. The software that will be installed in cell phones of the journalists-at-risk allowing them push the panic button over their phone to alert their colleagues, families and authorities in an un-toward situation.

In addition, human rights organizations are working out a plan of installing trackers in vehicle under use of journalists and their cell phones. Since there is a possibility that the vehicle or the cell phone is kept away from the kidnapped journalists in order to keep his captive location hidden, another alternative under consideration is installing chip somewhere in the body for keeping track of his whereabouts.

Also the idea of setting up a hotline is under consideration allowing journalists in trouble to make a call at that number apprising of the threats he or she is facing. The projects are expected to be implemented in coming months.

Michael H Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, explained to a group of journalists that his office was funding the project of panic button but it is being run through another organization.

As the international organizations are taking initiatives, the government of Pakistan instead of helping the journalists out, is targeting them and harassing through different means. Saleem, Shahzad is the fourth Pakistani journalist fallen to death in first five months of this year.

More than 40 journalists have been killed in the past decade and in no case the culprits have been brought to justice. The killers who are from within the government and outside operate in a culture of impunity as never ever they have been made horrible example.

Source: The News

Date:6/8/2011