Pakistan failing to combat rising impunity for crimes against journalists: report | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan failing to combat rising impunity for crimes against journalists: report

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistan has failed to combat rising impunity for crimes against journalists despite legislation for
their safety, according to Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2023 report released on Sunday.
The report titled “One step forward, two steps back — Pakistan legislates on the safety of
journalists, but still fails to protect them” was launched ahead of the International Day to End
Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which falls on November 2.
“Since the promulgation of safety laws for journalists first by the Sindh government and then the
federal government in late 2021, Pakistan continues to record an alarming increase in persecution
of journalists, especially by government authorities and state agencies, including kidnapping,
physical assaults and serious legal cases against them including on unproven charges of sedition,
treason and electronic crimes, in the two-year post-legislation period,” it said.
“The Sindh Assembly passed the ‘Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners
Act-2021’ while the National Assembly passed ‘Protection of Journalists and Media
Professionals Act-2021’ in the span of few months,” it recalled.
According to the report, Pakistan was failing to use the important legal instruments to combat
rising impunity for crimes against journalists despite passing laws in this regard for two years.
It highlighted that at least 37.5pc violations — 93 out of total 248 cases in period between
August 2021-August 2023 — were recorded in Islamabad alone.
Sindh was the second worst region in Pakistan with 22.5pc of the violations (56 cases), the report
said, adding that it was ironic that most attacks against journalists were reported from regions
that legislated for their safety.
The report further highlighted that 11 journalists were also killed or lost lives in line of duty
during the same period.
“Pakistan was ranked 157 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Border’s World Press
Freedom Index in 2021 before the laws were passed,” it said, adding that the country had
improved its media freedom rank to 150 due to the two laws in 2023.
“It is very disturbing to see the good work of the two legislatures diluted by not making the laws
fully operational to provide protection to journalists,” Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of
Freedom Network, reacted to the report’s findings.
“Both the federal and Sindh governments are responsible for effectively dysfunctionalising their
own laws and therefore delaying and effectively denying justice to journalists,” he said.
Failure of governments

The report went on to say that the federal Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act
was passed by the National Assembly during PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s tenure.
“In these two years, both the Khan and Sharif governments failed to establish a safety
commission mandated by the law which meant that in effect the federal law remained non-
operationalised and hence failed to help a single of the 93 journalists in Islamabad that were
killed, attacked, injured, threatened or harassed in the two years since its enactment. The two
governments also failed to enforce the law,” it said.
Highlighting that a similar situation prevailed in Sindh, the report said: “The Sindh Protection of
Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act was passed in June 2021 by the provincial
assembly and notified officially in August 2021.
“But the Commission for the Protection of Journalists and other Media Practitioners (CPJMP),
proposed by the law, was only notified one year late in December 2022 with respected jurist
Rasheed A Razvi appointed its first chairperson.”
It added that the Sindh government failed to provide either an office, staff or formal budget for
the commissions’ operations until Aug 2023
“Thereby procedurally hampering its operations and severely restricting the commission’s ability
to provide protection, relief, and justice for the growing number of violations against journalists
and media entities in Sindh province,” the report noted.
It stated that the Commission Chairperson Razvi used to come to the aid of several journalists in
Sindh “who were either kidnapped or attacked by issuing notices to the provincial authorities,
including law enforcement agencies, to either recover or safeguard the journalists”
“His orders were complied, indicating that if resourced properly, the commission can help reduce
impunity of crimes against journalists and media in Sindh,” it added.
The report also made three recommendations for the country to benefit from these laws. These
include “urgent formation of a safety commission under the federal Protection of Journalists and
Media Professionals Act, appropriate and adequate resourcing, including budget, office, and staff
for Sindh’s commission, and an enactment of similar journalists’ safety laws by Balochistan, KP,
and Punjab after legislative assemblies are elected in these provinces” following the 2024
provincial elections.
“Pakistan has a golden opportunity to become one of the strongest global performers in
combating impunity for crimes against journalists with presence now on its statute books of the
two specialist journalists’ safety legislations,” the report said. “But for this promise to
materialise, these three recommendations must be implemented on priority.”

Source: Dawn

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