KARACHI – There is no media law in Pakistan that provides for complete protection to the journalist community, as the country has become one of the most dangerous places for journalists, observed legal experts and journalists at a seminar organised by the Intermedia Pakistan in collaboration with the KUJ and KPC in the metropolis on 27th January 2013.
Participants of the event were informed that there were no laws in the country that could deal with the threats and violence against journalists. It may be mentioned here that as many as 97 journalists have been killed in Pakistan between 2000 and 2012, but prosecution against criminals remains poor. In their presentations, the legal experts and journalists informed the attendants that Sindh had become one of the most dangerous territories in Pakistan to practice journalism, with 23 journalists killed in the last 12 years; 17 in the last five years alone.
The second worst place for journalists is Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, where a total of 18 journalists have been killed in the last 12 years; 14 in the last five years alone. Journalists are not safe in Balochistan either. Here 17 journalists have been killed since 2000. The Tribal Areas and the Punjab tie for the fourth worst place for journalists, with 11 killings each in the last five years.Human rights lawyer Asad Jamal, in his presentation, said that a systematic elimination of journalists was continuing in the country. He said that no less than 63 journalists were picked out and shot dead in cold blood.
Four-fifths of these killings showed that their work had massively upset the anti-state actors that killed them. Of the said 63, 12 journalists were abducted before being killed and their bodies found dumped served as a warning for other working journalists, he added.Sharing details of the ways these journalists were killed, he said that five of them were brutally tortured in captivity before being killed; two were beheaded and one hanged.
At least 10 journalists were killed in suicide attacks while they were reporting, and four in bomb attacks. The increasing impunity in crimes against journalists in the world compelled the United Nations to intervene and work out a plan of action which aims to assist member states to develop legislation and mechanisms guaranteeing freedom of expression and information and security of journalists.The UN plan of action binds countries to effectively investigate and prosecute crimes against the freedom of expression as well as take steps for promoting safety of journalists. Quoting the UN resolution, he said that safety of journalists and struggle against impunity for their killers were essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Talking about the reasons for impunity, he said that it was impossible to get legal support in cases of threats and killing of journalists, besides investigation and prosecution aside, not even an FIR had been registered in some cases. Even, there is no legal protection at all for journalists and resources to pursue the cases of slain journalists in the courts in Pakistan, he said. He emphasised to form a network of trained lawyers to help journalists reopen investigations and proceedings in the courts.
Recommending the laws, he said that the legislation for job security of journalists and other staff be introduced and implemented as well as legislation for adoption and implementation of SoPs included for bringing on record threats, training of journalists, reporters, cameramen and other staff.In his presentation on ‘Security and Safety of journalists: Constitutional and Legal Framework’, Advocate Muhammad Aftab Alam said that the definition of right to freedom of speech and expression was complex, which everyone used through their own interpretation.He, however, said that there was no specific law in the country that offered complete rights for journalists including their financial, safety and security.
Lala Hassan, Media Outreach Manager at Intermedia Pakistan told the participants that Intermedia intends to initiate a ‘Journalists Safety Fund’ in the country, besides it trying to bring a mechanism in consultation of legal fraternity and journalist for speedy prosecution and investigation against impunity. Other journalists including KUJ President G M Jamali, Riaz Sohail, Bhagwandas and others also shared their views.
As reported by The Nation on 28th January 2013