Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award for Saleem Shahzad: Steps demanded to end impunity of crimes against journalists
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day here on Thursday announced the annual PPF-Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award-2012 for the slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was murdered on 30 May 2011.
Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Ms Sharmila Faruqi and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee Member Ashfaq Mangi gave the Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award along with a cheque of one hundred thousand rupees to Anita Saleem Shahzad, widow of the slain journalist. Children of Saleem Shahzad were also present.
Earlier, a discussion program on the importance of freedom of the press and challenges being faced by journalists in Pakistan particularly in conflict areas was held at PPF-Vicky Zeitlin Media Library, in connection with World Press Freedom Day.
The speakers showed grave concerns on growing security problems for journalists in Pakistan. They said today Pakistan is considered as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. During last 10 years 42 journalists were killed in the country and 29 of them targeted due to the issues related to discharge of their professional responsibilities. Though FIRs of these murders were lodged but saving the case of US-based journalist Daniel Pearl no other case led to conviction. This shows that those involved in the crimes against journalists in Pakistan enjoy a sort of unannounced impunity.
They said the growing pressure of secret agencies, militant organizations and some political pressure groups has forced the journalists and media organizations to resort to self-censorship. The working conditions in conflict areas of FATA and Balochistan are very hostile for reporters, forcing journalists of these areas to leave their hometowns and villages and migrate to safer areas.
They said the owners of media houses are not paying heeds to ensure proper safety and security of their reporters. Cameras and other equipment of media houses are properly insured but not the cameramen and reporters using them. The government and media organizations should have to take serious notice of this issue and ensure that all working journalists are properly insured. There is also need of in-house training programs for journalists to raise their professional capacities and make them aware about the risks of working in dangerous and conflict areas.
Speakers also criticized the trend of growing commercialization of media, saying Pakistani media is portraying women as a cheap commodity in their advertisements, which is against their honor and dignity. They said this is not only a moral issue but also blatant gender discrimination. They said growing content of sensationalism in electronic media should be checked and there should be some code of professional ethics for media people.
On the occasion, the heroic services of Syed Saleem Shahzad and other slain Pakistani journalists were lauded. It was observed that Pakistani journalists have always rendered invaluable services for democracy and uphold of law and constitution in the country. They said for a thriving media freedom in country the democratic values should be further strengthened and the culture of tolerance promoted.
Pakistan Press International (PPI) news agency chief editor Farooq Mojn, PPF senior coordinator Lala Hassan, Syed Shams of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), senior journalists A H Khanzada, Riaz Suhail, Rehana Afroze of Jammat-e-Islami and others participated in the discussion. They demanded of the government and civil society to take firm steps end impunity of crimes against journalists.