No country for journalists
Pakistan continues to live up to its reputation for being the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Malik Mumtaz Khan, a tribal journalist and president of the Miranshah Press Club was ambushed and killed by unknown gunmen in North Waziristan (NW) on Wednesday. He is the latest in a long list of journalists killed in FATA and throughout Pakistan. Khan was the fourth journalist killed in just the first two months of this year, and the second in NW. Another tribal journalist, Hayatalluh Khan, was abducted in December 2005, kept in detention for six months, and his body discovered in June 2006. There has been no claim of responsibility for Mumtaz Khan’s assassination, although eyewitness accounts speak of his car being stopped by a vehicle with tinted glasses, a trademark signature of the terrorist groups operating in FATA, after which he was shot and killed on the spot. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan denied his group was responsible, cloaking his statement in praise for the slain journalist as one who had been serving the tribal people. However, the statement cannot be taken at face value since the circumstantial evidence points the finger of suspicion at the TTP or one of its affiliated groups. Thirteen tribal journalists have been lost since 2002, the year the influx of the Afghan Taliban fleeing the US forces in their country became a permanent presence in the area and later spurred the emergence of the TTP. Many tribal journalists have joined the exodus from FATA to the settled areas or Peshawar, fearing threats to life and limb. Tribal journalists have been squeezed since 2002 between the preferences of the army deployed in the region and the terrorists, neither of whom are respectful of media freedom or allow these journalists to do their job objectively and impartially.
In case anyone has any illusions that only journalists in the tribal areas face threats to their safety, the case of the hit-and-run killing of a journalist in Karachi the other day in suspicious circumstances should disabuse them of any such complacent notion. One only has to recall the cases of Wali Babar and Salim Shahzad to realise that journalists in Pakistan work and live in a very dangerous place. The ritual condemnations of Mumtaz Khan’s assassination by federal minister for information Qamar Zaman Kaira and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif are hardly sufficient balm on the smarting wounds of the journalist community. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes have been emboldened over the years by the fact that not a single killer of journalists has been arrested, much less tried and punished. It is as though the authorities have satisfied themselves that offering compensation to the families of slain journalists absolves them of all further responsibility. In an era of media freedom, into which Pakistan too has entered, albeit belatedly, it is the irreducible responsibility of the state to ensure the safety and security of all journalists. The pen may be mightier than the sword in the traditional formulation, but in Pakistan the sword hangs menacingly over journalists’ heads and is by now running with their blood.
Source: Daily Times