The deadliest state for journalists getting deadlier -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

The deadliest state for journalists getting deadlier

By: Saher Baloch

Karachi: International organisations representing journalists have touted Pakistan as the most dangerous country for the journalist community for the second consecutive year. Some 16 journalist being killed this year, those receiving threats remain undecided whether to confront those who are issuing the threats or remain silent.

Hamid Mir, a senior talk-show host of Geo News, chose to go public, exposing the elements that he feels are against his stand on certain issues. On Tuesday night, Mir circulated an email, claiming that he had received threats on his BlackBerry phone. However, he says five other journalists receiving similar threats have chosen to stay silent.

Mir says it was on the request of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he came out with the text message that he received from an unknown number “so that other journalists may also come forward with their stories.”

In his message posted on the website of the CPJ, Mir wrote: “I have received these kinds of threatening messages usually from intelligence agencies in the past. When I responded [to] these messages quickly and told them to go court against me they were silent.”

But even after going for a confrontation, he says, “eventually, nothing happens”. Citing examples of the murders of Hayatullah Khan and later Saleem Shahzad, he says that even after gathering everyone to protest against the murders or being part of the investigative commission, a lot remains a mystery even today.

Hayatullah Khan’s abduction and subsequent murder in December 2005 is still fresh in the minds of many and continues to be a sensitive subject to pursue. His wife and then his brother, who wanted to seek justice by investigating the cause of his murder, have been killed.

“He (Hayatullah) was a stringer with me for my show on tribal areas. On many occasions, he informed me of getting threats, which we laughed away just to give him confidence,” says Mir, adding that it got murkier from then on.

‘Commissions and fact-finding Reports’

Though a commission was created in 2006, Mir says that they are still waiting for the findings of the report that were to come within a “few months’ time”. Out of 16, five murders are from Balochistan. Even as the cases pile up, the previous murder cases and the findings of the commission reports are still awaited.

‘Sketchy investigations’

Mazhar Abbas, former president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), says it is necessary to go beyond “sketchy investigations” and look into the sort of stories that the journalists killed were working on. That, he says, will help to know the motive behind the killings.

Abbas asserts that in the competitive market of today, reporters do compete to get the news first, “but the important thing is to get it right”. Mir, however, is more candid as he says that there are only three quarters that threaten the journalists: “First come intelligence agencies, second religious parties and third political parties.”

Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, says that not every story that the journalists killed were working on was against the state or the establishment. Rana is of the opinion that journalists investigating the cases need to be “on the same page as well” to come up with substantial evidence against the military or the establishment they are blaming.

Way forward

Though military and security agencies are the two names speculated upon the most, journalists show caution while taking names directly for obvious reasons.

Imtiaz Alam, president of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), paints a bleaker picture as he says that there are “only disappointments awaiting us on most of the pending cases with the commissions”.

He says the only way to make the commissions work is to “make those in the military and the security establishment accountable for their actions, if they are guilty at all”.

Being part of the commission of the Saleem Shahzad case, Alam says that so far no one has been suspected, no one has been captured and there is a lack of “substantial evidence as well”.

Abbas says that unless a formal charge is filed, “we must not conclude anything”. Alam, switching from his earlier tone slightly, adds that making a commission is a positive step, but “firmer action needs to be taken to show certain elements that they cannot roam scot-free”.

He suggests that journalists need to be united in their stand. At the same time, he proposes the appointment of an ombudsman with whom journalists could file their complaints.

Source: The News