Risks journalists face
IT IS a matter of great concern that journalists continue to face tremendous risks while doing their job thus belying the government’s claim that the media is free. On Saturday, Babur Hussain, a Dawn News reporter, was picked up by plainclothes men outside his home in Rawalpindi and taken to an unknown location where he was kept – and interrogated – until his release on Tuesday.
Mr Hussain was picked up a day after his report on the suicide attack on SSG commandos in Tarbela was telecast. Just last week the teenage son of journalist Shakeel Turabi was beaten outside his school in Islamabad by an unidentified man as a way to “punish” his father for writing “false reports”.
(Mr Turabi himself was earlier beaten in May for contradicting government claims.) Then there are reports of attacks on journalists covering Nawaz Sharif’s arrival in Islamabad. These incidents have occurred just in the last ten days. Yet the information minister will have us believe that the Pakistani media is the model of a free media in South Asia. Facts and figures show otherwise:
The IFJ reported 100 journalists were attacked or threatened in Pakistan in 2006 while four were killed. Such acts of intimidation and threats against journalists are simply unacceptable. So is the government’s inability to check its security apparatus for its illegal detention of journalists.
The murder of reporter Hayatullah Khan in 2006 remains unsolved as do scores of cases of illegal detentions or attacks on media persons. They must all be seriously investigated and the guilty must be punished in accordance with the law.
The government has a responsibility to ensure that journalists can do their job in an environment free of risk and intimidation.Threats to silence the media will only cause more harm to the government.