When President Asif Ali Zardari met a delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, he expressed his commitment to pursue justice for journalists killed in the line of duty and pledged “to take steps to reverse the country’s rising record of impunity.Â” “The protection of journalists is in my mandate,” the president had told the delegation, directing his cabinet members to work with parliament to develop legislation to tackle attacks on journalists. Since this meeting, two more journalists have been killed in Pakistan: Nasrullah Afridi in Peshawar on May 10 and this week, Syed Saleem Shahzad, outside the high-security Islamabad. So far, there seems to be no real comment from the government on the circumstances of Shahzad’s murder — except for routine statements that the culprits will be brought to justice “at every cost.” Tragically, no government representative was present at Shahzad’s funeral; only some politicians belonging to the opposition who knew the deceased in a personal capacity were in attendance.
Meanwhile, following speculation that the ISI had a hand in Shahzad’s death, the ISI made a rare public statement a few days ago to deny involvement in the journalist’s murder and in the same breath, has warned the Pakistani media to “refrain from (making) baseless allegations against the ISI that seek to deliberately malign the organisation in the eyes of the people of Pakistan”. This warning came despite the fact that much of the media showed maturity in response to Shahzad’s murder, merely fulfilling its duty to report where fingers have been pointed but stressing at every step that not enough evidence is available yet to fix responsibility. Shahzad’s killing is a fresh and deadly reminder to journalists to think twice about what they write. But hundreds of them were not afraid to gather in different cities of the country to protest Shahzad’s brutal murder. This is exactly the kind of response we need to give those who wish to silence critics. That Pakistani journalists keep up their honest work is today more crucial than ever before. In crisis-prone Pakistan, Shahzad’s murder is in danger of being forgotten once the next ‘disaster’ hits front pages in the coming days. Let’s remember how soon we forget our ‘disasters’ and pledge never to forget this. While Shahzad is gone, what is left behind is a Pakistan that seems a lot uglier, increasingly intolerant, and much more unsafe. While Shahzad’s life has been cut short, Pakistani journalists must live to fight another day, reporting as vigourously as ever and playing their role in making Pakistan a safer, more honest place for all citizens.
Source: The News