World Press Freedom Day Celebrated by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) on May 3, 2012
Pakistani journalists are killed, unjustly detained, abducted, beaten and threatened by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, militants, tribal and feudal lords, as well as, some political parties that claim to promote democracy and the rule of law. Sixwere killed in the line of duty in Pakistan during 2011. For every journalist who has been deliberately targeted and murdered, there are many others who have been injured, threatened and coerced into silence.
During last 10 years 42 journalists were killed in the country and 29 of them targeted due to the issues related to discharge of their professional responsibilities. Though FIRs of these murders were lodged but saving the case of US-based journalist Daniel Pearl no other case led to conviction. This shows that those involved in the crimes against journalists in Pakistan enjoy a sort of unannounced impunity.
This was the depressing situation in which Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) commemorated the of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2012 andannounced the annual PPF-Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award for 2011 for the slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was murdered on 30 May 2011.
The speakers on the occasion expressed grave concerns on growing security problems for journalists which has made Pakistan as one of the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
Participants discussed growing pressure of secret agencies; militant organizations and some political pressure groups have forced the journalists and media organizations to resort to self-censorship. The working conditions in conflict areas of FATA and Balochistan were very hostile for reporters, forcing journalists of those areas to leave their hometowns and villages and migrate to safer areas.
Some expressed the view that the owners of media houses were not paying heeds to ensure proper safety and security of their reporters. Cameras and other equipment of media houses are properly insured but not the cameramen and reporters using them. The government and media organizations should have to take serious notice of this issue and ensure that all working journalists are properly insured. There is also need of in-house training programs for journalists to raise their professional capacities and make them aware about the risks of working in dangerous and conflict areas.
Chief Guest and advisor to Sindh Chief Minister, Ms. Sharmila Farooqui termed journalists as “field soldiers” and said that journalists had struggled a lot for democracy and freedom of the press. She said that there were no restrictions on the media in Pakistan, adding that responsibility comes along with freedom and journalists should perform their duties with utmost responsibility because nowadays, the media has a larger impact on the people than anything else.
Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee’s Member, Mr. Ashfaq Mangi said that all political parties and civil society organizations should sit together to work out a Code of Conduct for the media to ensure freedom of press with responsibility and security. All stake holders should stand with journalists at time of crisis.
Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Ms. Sharmila Farooqi and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee Member Ashfaq Ahmad Mangi gave the Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award along with a cheque of one hundred thousand rupees to Anita Saleem Shahzad, widow of the slain journalist. Children of Saleem Shahzad were also present.
Shahzad was abducted while driving from his house to a television station in Islamabad on May 29, 2011, two days after he alleged in an article that al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan Navy. His body, bearing marks of torture, was found the next day in a canal near Mandi Bahauddin, a district of Punjab province.
The heroic services of Syed Saleem Shahzad and other slain Pakistani journalists were eulogized by participants. It was observed that Pakistani journalists have rendered invaluable services for democracy and uphold of law and constitution in the country. Participants said for a thriving media freedom in country the democratic values should be further strengthened and the culture of tolerance promoted