'Sacred cows' and 'troublesome' journalists -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Sacred cows’ and ‘troublesome’ journalists

Sabir Shah

LAHORE: While assassinating ‘troublesome’ journalists and then comfortably getting away with the crime has become a common practice for ‘sacred cows’ in countries like Pakistan, one earnestly hopes men at the helm of affairs in Islamabad can learn some lessons from the Central Asian Republic of Ukraine, where a former president was recently charged with the gory murder of a journalist.

One, however, doubts that killers of dozens of slain Pakistani journalists would ever be unmasked, because it requires a lot of backbone-something that the rulers in this part of the world have been lacking badly.

The 72-year old former Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, who was the second head of state of his country from July 1994 to January 2005, has also been banned from leaving the country until the investigation in this case is over.

On March 22, 2011, Ukrainian prosecutors said they suspected that Mr Kuchma was involved in the 2000 high-profile killing of a journalist called Georgiy Gongadze, a claim that the former president has always strongly denied.

From 1998 to 2000, Kuchma’s bodyguard and former KGB employee had bugged the then president’s office, handing over the recordings to an opposition member of the Ukraine parliament, who then released these tapes to the press. The 500 hours of Dictaphone recordings revealed that President Kuchma had approved the sale of radar systems to Iraq, besides ordering Ukraine’s spy agency to exterminate journalist Georgiy Gongadze, who was working on a story regarding the illegal arms sales from his country.

In September 2000, journalist Georgiy Gongadze had vanished from the scene mysteriously, and on November 3, 2000, his headless body was found. These tapes, dubbed “Kuchmagate” by the Ukrainian media, were released by the opposition politicians on November 28 or some 25 days after the journalist’s cold-blooded murder.

President Kuchma was consequently accused of the crime. In 2005, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General initiated criminal proceedings against Kuchma, but the then sitting head of state claimed immunity from prosecution in return for his ‘graceful’ departure from office in 2005.

According to British daily “The Telegraph,” Ukraine’s former president “was publicly accused of complicity in the grisly murder of a famous journalist 10 years ago and faces a criminal investigation.” The prestigious newspaper reported that the 31-year-old journalist had specialized in uncovering corruption, which remains one of the most horrific crimes to have been committed in post-Soviet Ukraine.

It added:” The young journalist was kidnapped on September 16, 2000 after leaving a friend’s flat in Kiev. Two months later, his headless and badly disfigured corpse was found in a forest 40 miles from the Ukrainian capital.” It further stated:” Mr Kuchma, who was President at the time, has always denied any involvement in the killing. But a recording made public soon after the murder suggested he had a strong motive. In it, Mr Kuchma was heard telling two colleagues that he was deeply irritated by the journalist’s writings. The three men were even heard discussing ways of silencing Mr Gongadze, including deporting him and kidnapping him and taking him to Chechnya.”

To cite another very recent example from Turkey, where law has effectively taken its course in a case involving the murder of a famous Turkish-Armenian journalist called Hrant Dink in 2007, six military officers were sentenced to months in jail on June 2, 2011 for failing to prevent the murder. According to the Chinese wire service “Xinhua” and a Turkish news agency “Anatolia,” a total of eight suspects-including a serving Army colonel and a captain-had stood trial in this case. Xinhua reported on June 3, 2011:” Colonel Ali Oz, then Trabzon’s provincial gendarmerie commander and Captain Metin Yildiz, chief of intelligence unit of the provincial gendarmerie command, were sentenced to six months in jail for misconduct in the case.” Four other military officers were given four months of imprisonment and two were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The Chinese news agency stated: “Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, was shot dead outside the newspaperÂ’s offices in Istanbul’s Sisli neighborhood on Jan. 19, 2007. Before the killing, Dink had been convicted of insulting Turkey’s identity over his comments on the alleged Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks during World War I and received a six-month suspended sentence. He had also received threat from nationalists who considered him as a traitor. Police arrested the gunman Ogun Samast a day after the murder and a suspected instigator was identified as Yasin Hayal.”

It goes without saying that the United States has already hunted down a top al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for innumerable acts of terrorism, including the killing of a leading American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi.

The 47-year old Kuwait-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003, has now been in US custody for nearly 100 months. On October 12, 2006, the “Time” magazine had reported that Khalid confessed under CIA interrogation murdering Daniel Pearl and on March 15, 2007, the Pentagon had released a similar statement.

Closely related to Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s second husband Ammar al-Baluchi, Daniel Pear’s killer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now awaiting a military trial at the US-controlled Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Source: The News