QUETTA: Abdul Haq Baloch on September 29, 2012 became the 5th journalist to be shot dead in Khuzdar district of Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province and 13th to be killed there since 2000. Haq is also the 7th journalist to be target killed in the line of duty in the country and his death has brought up the number of journalist casualties in Pakistan since January 2000 to 86.

Haq was the general secretary of Khuzdar Press Club. He hailed from small village  Baghban in the district. He had been associated with journalism since 2000. He was working with ARY News television channel as their district correspondent, with a local Balochistan daily newspaper Awam as a reporter and with state broadcaster Radio Pakistan as a news translator.

On September 29 Haq was on his way back from Radio Pakistan when unidentified armed persons opened fire on him in a targeted attack around 300 hundred meters away from Radio Pakistan building in Khuzdar. Haq received multiple bullets wounds and died on the spot. He has left a widow and two young children in his wake.

 Director General Radio Pakistan Murtaza Solangi says that the organization mourns his loss. “Abdul Haq worked for Radio Pakistan Khuzdar since 2004. Under the [government announced] Balochistan Development Package he was hired as a regular employee recently. We mourn his loss and will provide job to one of his family members besides other compensation under the rules”.

President Khuzdar Press Club Allah Baksh Nabi says that journalists in Khuzdar are working in an environment of permanent threat and have no security. “We are sandwiched between the authorities and separatist groups. Both sides threaten us for reporting about the other side,” he said.

Baksh added that the Khuzdar Press Club had been threatened by a group calling itself Balochistan Liberation Army, a proscribed armed group, and labelled ‘government agent’. However, no specific journalists were mentioned in the threat. In response to the threat, the Khuzdar Press Club had also issued a press release to state that journalists are doing fair reporting without siding with anybody and if anybody had concerns they should contact the press club office bearers.

Adnan Rehmat, the executive director of Intermedia Pakistan, a national organization working for greater professionalization of the media said the biggest challenge apart from direct threat to the life and limb of journalists in the country in general and Balochistan in particular is a culture of impunity. “The killers of not a single of the 86 journalists killed in Pakistan have been arrested, tried and convicted,” he said, adding that this promoted impunity and allowed anyone to threaten and target journalists because they knew they can get away with murder.

Rehmat said three things could improve the appalling security environment for journalists in the country. “The government needs to launch investigations into the murders of all 86 journalists and invoke the judicial process so that there is push-back against impunity; the media organizations should outline and adopt standard security protocols to reduce the framework of risks for journalists; and the journalists need to be trained not to take unnecessary risks chasing news and adopt a proactive security regimen to cut down threats to their lives,” he added.

Rehmat said Intermedia manages the Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund (PJSF) that offers financial, legal, medical and other assistance to journalists in distress but said more resources and a greater proactive approach and fleshed out mechanism was required from the journalist community in the country to help reduce the threats against journalists.

To protest against the threats and murder of journalists the Pakistan federal Union of Journalists, the apex body of working journalists in the country, arranged a protest rally in Quetta, the provincial headquarters of Balochistan. The journalists, who were trying to march towards the Chief Minister House, were intercepted by police and FIRs [first investigation reports] were lodged by the police against 27 journalists for “entering the red zone” of security.

President Balochistan Union of Journalists Eesa Tareen said: “The provincial government does not offer us any protection. Over a dozen journalists have been killed in Balochistan and not a single FIR has been registered against their killers. Not a single killer has been caught and no body has been held accountable.”

Photo Credit: Banaras Khan, Photo Journalist, Quetta

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