IFJ calls for greater protection of journalists in World Press Freedom Day message
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), marked World Press Freedom Day by issuing a report highlighting that none of the nine journalists killed while working in Pakistan in the year to April had received specialist training for reporting in dangerous environments. Nor were they provided with insurance cover.
“Reporting on conflicts remained highly risky, and reporters as well as those working inside the media houses remained under threat from the authorities as well as from non-state actors,” the PFUJ said.
The IFJ supports the PFUJ in its call for media bosses to support safety training courses and provide life insurance, safety equipment and improved working conditions for their employees.
The PFUJ report said the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Karachi were the most dangerous places for media personnel in Pakistan.
In many parts of Baluchistan and Sindh province, risks for journalists commonly arose from their reporting on insecurity, tribal assemblies and social issues such as forced marriages. For example, three reporters left their home towns in Sindh after reporting on social issues, the PFUJ said.
Aside from those killed, at least 75 journalists were injured in violence involving police or para-military groups, while more than 200 journalists were detained during journalists’ protests against anti-media laws imposed under emergency rule in November 2007.
Meanwhile, a reported 78 journalists in interior Sindh are still facing anti-terrorism allegations which were registered shortly after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in late December. Ten were reportedly arrested but later released on bail. At least 21 of these journalists work for the Kawaish Television Network (KTN).
The PFUJ calls on power-holders also to assess the need for constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Article 19 of the Constitution, covering press freedom issues, is currently too vague, it said.
“After a year in which press freedom declined sharply, the IFJ joins the PFUJ in welcoming commitments by Pakistan’s new government to withdraw anti-media laws, implement the long-delayed Seventh Wage Award and support measures to protect journalists and media workers in the conduct of their work,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
The PFUJ and the IFJ will continue their campaign for a “Fresh Start for Media and Democracy” in Pakistan, and closely monitor the implementation of government promises.