Body to aid journalists in distress suggested
WASHINGTON: Pakistani journalists need to form a committee to provide immediate help to their colleagues facing death threats, speakers at a meeting at Washington`s National Press Club said.
Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists said his organisation was contacting PFUJ, APNS and major media groups in Pakistan for this purpose.
The proposed cell should liaise with Pakistani authorities to respond to distress calls from journalists like Saleem Shahzad who was murdered near Islamabad last week.
Mr Dietz proposed following the pattern set by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee in Karachi and it should include working journalists as well as media owners.
At the meeting, held to express solidarity with Mr Shahzad`s family and other journalists in distress, Pakistan`s Ambassador to the United States said the government was committed to investigating Mr Shahzad`s murder. Ambassador Husain Haqqani said he joined the journalists in expressing outrage over the killing. Pakistan, he said, was facing a big challenge from violent extremism and this was not the time for “finger-pointing. Mr Haqqani, himself a former journalist, also called for a halt to the cycle of killings of reporters in Pakistan.
Mr Shahzad “did not deserve to die,” he said. Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, who was formerly Special Assistant to President Clinton and a senior director at the National Security Council, made it clear that the killers of Mr Shahzad would not go unpunished.
He said the investigation into the murder should be open and transparent to ensure that those responsible were caught. He said he feared that some authorities might try to bury the killers` trail.
“Whoever was responsible should be found and prosecuted,” said Mark Hamrick, President of the National Press Club, which hosted the meeting. “We also urge the Pakistani government to do more to help journalists do their jobs without fearing for their safety,” he said.
“This is not about interfering in Pakistan`s domestic affairs. This is about enforcing the rule of law and the most basic aspirations towards a civil society.” Clothilde Le Coz from Reporters Without Borders pointed out that 17 journalists have been killed in Pakistan over the last 16 months. She commended Pakistani journalists for their courage, saying that they were often harassed, tortured and even killed for doing their job.
A resolution, presented by the Pakistan-American Media Forum, which organised the meeting, urged the government to take immediate steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
The resolution also demanded that Mr Shahzad`s family be protected and the same protection be provided to all journalists and media offices in the country.
“Human rights violations all over Pakistan, in particular those in Balochistan, should come to an end,” said the resolution.