Journalists at risk
The bombing of the Al Quds day rally in Quetta on Friday left scores of people dead. Amongst the many injured were seven journalists from various news organisations, highlighting once again the fact that reporting is an increasingly dangerous job in Pakistan.
Of the injured newsmen, it is unclear who received injuries in the blast itself and who fell victim to mob violence. An emerging trend in Pakistan is that a terrorist attack is often followed by unbridled mob violence and rage, as was witnessed not only in Quetta but in Lahore in the aftermath of Wednesday’s bombing of a Youm-i-Ali mourning procession. In such an event, media representatives – particularly cameramen and photographers – often become a direct target of the mob which wants to prevent the capturing of footage or images that could later be used to implicate individuals.
But the death of a driver of a private television channel van in Quetta cannot be explained away in this manner, by the fury of the moment, for he was shot twice in the chest whilst waiting in the van. Such a killing can only be viewed as cold-blooded murder done under the cover of mob violence, and deserves condemnation in the strongest possible terms.
Journalists shoulder the responsibility of reporting from potentially dangerous situations and locations. They have the right to expect that their security becomes a priority with their organisations in particular and society in general. Specific measures that are easy to implement would go a long way towards protecting journalists, such as providing body armour or flak jackets that are to be worn by reporters and news crews heading towards potentially violent venues. Similarly, media organisations must ensure that first-aid kits are available in all their vehicles, with the journalists being given basic training in their use. Most importantly, the culture of news organisations vying for the best and most comprehensive story, even in situations of danger, has to end. A news team must not feel itself under pressure by its employer to get the story at any cost, for the latter could be life or limb.