A safety net: Fund for journalists
OFF and on, we are reminded of the fact that Pakistan remains a hard place for journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities. There have been a number of high-profile killings of media persons in this country. Conditions are especially difficult in Fata and parts of Balochistan, where journalists have paid with their lives, while even in cities like Karachi media persons have been targeted and face a variety of threats. Working conditions are particularly tough for freelancers and stringers operating in remote and conflict-ridden areas. Considering the circumstances, the decision by former caretaker prime minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso to set up a fund for journalists in conflict zones must be welcomed. The fund seeks to provide financial assistance to families of journalists killed or maimed in the line of duty while it also provides for cash support for media persons “suffering from a serious ailment”.
While the state has taken the initiative, the fact is that ensuring journalists receive proper training, equipment and protection in order to safely carry out their professional duties is primarily the responsibility of media houses. This also holds true for providing compensation in case anything unforeseen occurs. Media concerns must step in and match the government’s effort, especially when it comes to providing compensation to families of journalists who get killed or seriously injured while carrying out their duties. Unless media houses support this initiative — particularly on the financial front — it will not become sustainable. Also, while the fund was set up by the caretaker administration, we expect the elected government to honour the initiative and support it. Considering the occupational hazards, journalists will at least be assured that some sort of support will be available to them or their families should anything unfortunate happen.