In Pakistan, assassination has been a well practiced form of media censorship. Journalists and increasingly media workers who support news teams, are being attacked by different actors. Journalists have been killed, attacked, injured, abducted, detained and tortured across Pakistan. The figures are gruesome. Due to the continued attacks on media, Pakistan has been rated very poorly on international freedom of expression and media freedom indexes and is commonly referred to as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
The threats to journalists have been largely explained away by state quarters as just being ‘reflective of the larger insecure situation’ in Pakistan. However, this simplistic explanation does not take in account the fact that over 70% of the journalists who have been killed in the field did not become victims of larger terrorism incidents, but were directly targeted and killed. Additionally, journalists serve a very important role in democratic nations and this targeting of journalists as a means of intimidation of silencing can have serious implications for democracy.
Over the last few years government officials have continued to express concern and commitments for journalists’ safety. However, the numbers show that these commitments have been mere lip service. 2014 was dubbed as the deadliest year for journalists as 14 journalists were killed and 58 journalists were injured.
In January 2015, the PML-N government publicly committed this cause and has repeated that they will ensure safety of journalists who are under attack. Earlier in March 2014, during a meeting with a delegation from Committee for Protection of Journalist, CPJ, an international group working on media safety, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a set of commitments to develop safer working environment for media.
However, none of these promises could be translated into action. Attacks on media continue unchecked. The continued threat to media workers thus poses a serious challenge to freedom of expression in the country. We are working with national and international bodies to find solutions, document threats, and create the pressure on Pakistani government to enact a media workers safety bill and ensure that policy and procedure are in place to end impunity and help journalists carry on their key democratic function in a safe and secure manner.
We, Media Matters for Democracy (our team), have been involved on journalists’ rights’ advocacy for past many years and in the wake of recent attacks on media workers, feel that a sustained movement is a prerequisite to secure safety for journalists and to bring an end to prevailing impunity.
#JournoSafePK is our modest contribution to larger campaign. We hope to, using social media, create that critical mass required to get our message through to power corridors.
Defend journalism. Standup for your right to a free media.