Joint stand against violence a must for security of journalists
Karachi: The reason why journalists are attacked so often and in such a brazen manner is that, essentially, they are soft targets moving about on the front lines.
Unarmed and fearless, they are impartial observers of events and gatherers of evidence who are often caught in both, the literal and metaphoric, crossfire.
This was stated by Sabeen Agha, a respected senior journalist, at a one-day seminar on “Safety of Journalists and Attacks on Media Houses” arranged by the Women Media Centre (WMC) in collaboration with the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) on Tuesday.
The conference was attended by senior journalists and media personalities including Agha Masood, Tahir Najmi, Najia Asher and Naseer Ejaz.
The aim of the colloquy was to generate understanding and awareness about the safety and protection of journalists.
The speakers discussed all aspects of the multiple threats being faced by journalists and the manner in which the field was becoming all the more hazardous given the increasing regularity of attacks on media houses and personnel.
The most recent incident involving Geo anchorperson Hamid Mir dominated the initial proceedings and WMC founder and executive director Fauzia Shaheen highlighted the imperative need for increased security of journalists.
“The entire journalistic community is yet again appalled by the kind of violence journalists of Pakistan are being subjected to. We demand an honest inquiry and urge the government to bring those responsible for such attacks to justice,” she said.
“The issue is not an isolated one as similar conditions prevail in many other countries, including Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Ensuring proper training and protection of journalists is vital if they are to be successful in their mission to promote accountability and freedom of expression.”
Statistics and presentations put forward at the seminar said that since 1992, at least 54 journalists had been murdered in Pakistan, with seven slain in 2012 alone, making it the world’s third deadliest country for working journalists.
According to independent journalist unions, six media workers have been killed in attacks since January this year, while over a dozen have received serious death threats, including three anchorpersons.
Geo’s Najia Ashar said, “There is a difference between a reporter and a host or anchorperson. While a reporter just presents the particular news as is, a host also has to give his or her opinion over the issue. That is the reason they are most often the targets.”
The seminar concluded with a consensus observation that media associations needed to take a joint stand against violence and threats being directed towards them and their employees. “An attack on one should be seen as an attack on all. It is time that the state takes necessary measures to fulfil its responsibility of protecting the fundamental rights of expression and information guaranteed by the constitution.”