Another journalist reporting from FATA, Mukarram Khan Atif, has been murdered for refusing coverage to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) version of events in his reports and programmes on the Pashto language Deewa radio station and other media organisations. Atif had been receiving death threats from the TTP since long. They finally silenced his voice forever, making him the first journalist to have been killed in 2012. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), diplomats and others condemned his murder. Journalists and activists held rallies against Mukarram’s murder and the poor security situation of journalists across the country. But the government high officials responded in the same old cold manner. They condemned the killing and pledged as usual to bring the culprits to book, only God knows how and when.
Pakistan has been dubbed as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Given the presence of colossal corruption and deception in the country, any journalist, who strives to dig up facts, inquires deeper than superficially handling a story and dares to expose the truth seems bound to live under serious threat to his life, even sometimes at the hands of the law enforcement agencies. The business is even riskier in the conflict-hit areas of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is nearly impossible for the tribal journalists to avoid the rage of militant groups or intolerant state agencies if they delve more into the activities of militants or military operations in the tribal region. Killings, abductions and torture of journalists continue with impunity and the death toll keeps on rising. At least 11 journalists were killed in 2011 and so far no culprit has been booked. According to a report, 30 percent of tribal reporters out of 230 journalists registered as members of the Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) have fled to the settled areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, fearing death threats. Regrettably, some of them are not even safe there. The killing of another tribal journalist Nasrullah Afridi on May 10, 2011 in the highly guarded cantonment area in Peshawar is proof of that gruesome reality. Facing frequent threats, he had moved to Hayatabad, Peshawar from his hometown, Bara Tehsil. His murder remains a yet to be solved mystery. Reports say that he had tense relations with Khyber Agency-based banned outfit Lashkar-e-Islam for his unbiased reporting.
The firing incident on the car of a journalist and the ex-president of Hyderabad Press Club, Mahesh Kumar, on New Year’s night also reinforces the fact that journalists working in the length and breadth of the country are under serious threat. Formation of a judicial inquiry commission on journalist Saleem Shahzad’s murder case had sparked a glimmer of hope that action taken against his ‘well known’ murderers would rein in the atrocious practice continuing against dissenting voices, but it proved spineless, feared to look facts in the eye and failed to serve justice. Consequently, the hope died there and then. In these circumstances, security of journalists in Pakistan looks like a distant dream.
Originally published here.