Journalism remains most perilous vocation in Sindh | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Journalism remains most perilous vocation in Sindh

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI:The recent killing of journalist Jan Mohammad Mahar in Sukkur has sent shockwaves through the media fraternity of the country. It is just another grim chapter of the disturbing fact that media persons remain highly vulnerable to intimidation, coercion, and physical violence. Over the past four years, more than 13 journalists have lost their lives in Sindh, while a staggering 20 media persons have been killed and in the past decade. What’s disheartening is that not a single perpetrator has faced justice.

These targeted attacks, both in the physical and digital realms, concocted cases, and even short-term kidnappings of journalists across Sindh have laid bare a deeply flawed criminal justice system’s inability to take action against both the culprits and their handlers. Among the unsolved cases are those of Shan Dahar, the bureau chief of a local TV station in Larkana, who met his tragic end in 2014; Aziz Memon, killed in 2020 in Naushahro Feroze; Mushtaq Khand, murdered in the line of duty in 2018 in Khairpur Mir’s; Ajay Lalwani, a local reporter who lost his life in Sukkur; Ali Sher Rajpur, President of a Press Club; and Asghar Khand, who fell victim to an assailant’s rage in Khairpur Mir’s.

In most instances, the concerned police officials hastily categorised these incidents as personal disputes, often without conducting even any examination. A recent case in point is the tragic fate of Jan Mohammad Mahar.

“God knows we bore no enmity with anyone. My son was a vocal advocate against the injustices faced by the Hindu community. He was abducted and slain at a barber shop. Later, we discovered his body,” lamented Dileep Kumar, father of Ajay Lalwani. He added that while the perpetrators responsible for his son’s murder have been apprehended, unidentified suspects recently killed an eyewitness in the case by ramming a truck into his motorbike on the National Highway near Khairpur Mir’s.

According to a report compiled by the Sindh Journalist Council, between 2019 and 2020, 17 FIRs under the Anti-Terrorism Act were filed against 50 working journalists in various districts of Sindh due to their reporting on local elected representatives and influential figures.

“Over the past two years, more than two dozen journalists have endured torture and abuse. Just three months ago, two journalists, including the president of the Pano Aqil Press Club, Paryal Dayo, and Ifran Khalhoro, were kidnapped, tortured, and subjected to sexual assault. Their tormentors even recorded these heinous acts,” lamented Ghazi Jhandir, a senior journalist and the founding president of the Sindh Journalist Council.

He noted that despite international attention from organisations like the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), justice remains elusive. Jhandir further revealed that complaints have been lodged with the newly formed Commission for the Protection of Journalists and meetings held with the police chief, but meaningful action remains pending.

In an interview with The Express Tribune, Professor Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a mass communication professor who currently serves as a member of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists, acknowledged the rampant violence against working journalists. However, he cited the commission’s limited scope and authority in dealing with these cases.

“The commission was established in November 2022, with limited resources and powers. Our primary role is fact-finding, which we do to the best of our abilities. We often rely on police verification because the commission lacks the infrastructure and resources to conduct independent investigations.”

Regarding the punishment of those responsible for the murders of journalists, Dr Khan expressed frustration. “Either the attackers escape justice due to their influence, or justice is compromised, with pressure mounting on the victim’s family to settle through local arbitration (‘panchayat’). We’ve witnessed horrifying violence against journalists in Sindh, often driven by political motivations, and the government has faltered in establishing its authority when it comes to delivering justice to victims and their families.”

Despite repeated attempts, contact the IG Sindh police, could not be reached for comments. However, his spokesperson claimed that the police investigate journalists’ cases without any pressure and have formed Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) in cases involving slain reporters. “Ultimately, it falls to the courts to decide their fate,” the spokesperson noted, adding that the IGP has also ordered an inquiry into the fake FIRs registered against journalists in various Sindh districts.

Source: The Express Tribune

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