Another killer of a journalist in Pakistan gets convicted – a small step but a huge victory for press freedom and impunity in crimes against media.

Pakistan is globally known as one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism. According to Media Matters for Democracy’s data, 111 journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty, and a larger percentage of those who’ve died were targeted; identified and shot pointblank.

For obvious reasons, impunity in these cases serve the perpetrators who are often linked, in one way or another, with the State and/or political groups. Out of 75 (of 111) who were targeted only 3 cases have seen convictions in court, and 1 has seen progress in terms of arrests made.

Recently however, a killer of another journalist was convicted by a District & Session Court of Karak (KPK) and sentenced to life imprisonment along with a fine of 5 million PKR – an extremely encouraging news for media in Pakistan.

MMfD has put together details of the journalists’ cases which have seen progress in Pakistan:

1-Daniel

2-Tabish

3-WaliKhan

4-Mastoi

5-Khattak

Express Tribune welcomed this conviction and Dawn termed it a ‘much needed closure for the family of Mr.Khattak’ :

Tribune’s editorial 20th March, 2016: Given these circumstances, we welcome the decision by the district and sessions court of Karak to convict the killer of Ayub Khattak, a senior journalist in the area. The accused has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs500,000 for shooting Mr Khattak to death outside his home in October 2013.

Dawn’s editorial 19th March, 2016: While grief cannot be assuaged, that the long wait for justice — nearly two years in this case — is finally over and the murderer is behind bars may bring much-needed closure to the family of Mr Khattak.

The circumstances of his death say much about the dangerous terrain journalists in this country must traverse in the pursuit of their duties.

Mr Khattak had been a reporter for the daily Karak Times and had published a story regarding drug smuggling and the sale of illicit substances in the area, as a result of which police action was initiated.

We feel the conviction, while it maybe a small step forward, is definitely encouraging for media and media practitioners in Pakistan but the fact that it took the court 2 years to indict the perpetrator says volumes about Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

We are also extremely glad to see Pakistan’s two mainstream newspapers, Express Tribune and Dawn wrote editorials on the issue, welcomed the court’s decision and have pushed for a firmer stance of the protection of journalists and an end to impunity.

Asad Baig

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