While hundreds of journalists have been killed around the world over the last decade, with violence spiraling upwards in many countries including Pakistan, the murderers often escape without punishment. The International Day Against Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, marked on November 2, is intended to highlight this problem. Over 700 journalists have been killed globally since 2013. Motives vary from action by state agencies, criminal gangs and mafias to the death of reporters and cameramen invariably at the front line of conflict and war. To end such crimes, it is essential that those responsible be penalised under the law. We can see that this does not always happen in our own country. In fact, most often, it does not happen at all. In 2005, Hayatullah Khan was kidnapped in North Waziristan, his body found six months later handcuffed and mutilated. Despite protests led by his small children, we still do not know clearly who killed him. The same is true in other cases, including that of Saleem Shahzad murdered in Islamabad in 2011, as well as other deaths which seemed to have resulted directly from the professional action of these media professionals.
The problems journalists face in Pakistan have been highlighted by the ‘most resilient journalist’ award given to Geo TV’s senior journalist Hamid Mir by the prestigious UK-based International Free Press organization. Mir had survived an assassination attempt in 2014 as well as facing other threats with courage while refusing to give up his determination to present the truth before audiences. This is the primary role of journalists. It is unfortunate that so many have been killed simply for performing what is their duty. Governments around the world, including our own, have failed to do enough to protect media professionals. The fact that those who murder them are so often not successfully prosecuted can only embolden others to target journalists. Such killings have taken place all over the country. We need to find ways to protect journalists better and allow them to bring forward the information that every citizen has the right to access.