An international conference is planned in Pakistan on March 6-7, 2013 to highlight the intensity and scale of impunity against journalists and media in the country and bring it the attention of key stakeholders in both Pakistan and at the international level. The conference also will aim to link up media defence groups from Pakistan with their key international level counterparts to facilitate networking on solutions and ideas as well as inflow of international support, advocacy expertise and technical assistance for Pakistan’s beleaguered media.
At least 65 journalists have been killed in Pakistan in the last five years and hundreds attacked, injured, kidnapped, arrested and intimidated in a variety of ways in the same period. Six have been killed in 2013 alone. From 2007 to 2013 the average number of journalists killed every year is 13 – one every 28 days. There has been no prosecution and conviction of any attacker – the prevalence of impunity is huge. Despite recent efforts by a variety of actors to combat this trend, the scale of impunity hasn’t been dented.
The international conference is planned to build on local efforts to raise the public profile of impunity against journalists by bringing together all key stakeholders from within Pakistan and key international media defence groups to discuss ways of combating the violence against media and journalists in the country and what best lessons from the world Pakistan can partly adopt.
The international conference also seeks to join forces with a new UN Action Plan Against Impunity for five pilot countries, including Pakistan, where journalists and media are facing a variety of serious hardships. The UN Plan of Action is expected to be rolled out in 2013 and is aimed at lending international support for action against impunity.
The international conference will be conducted by Intermedia Pakistan, a national media support and development group – with support from Open Society Foundations-Pakistan (OSF), International Media Support (IMS) and United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Attending the conference will be a variety of Pakistani representative associations of media workers, owners and professionals and media defence groups such as Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Council of Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ); Pakistan News Agencies Council (PNAC), Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA), senior management from mainstream media houses, and among others; the government; security agencies and civil society representatives, etc.
Expected to attend the conference from abroad, among others, will be key international media support groups such as Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), Article IX, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Federation of Freedom of Expression (IFEX),Freedom House, International News Safety Institute (INSI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Media Support (IMS), UNESCO, International Press Institute (IPI), Internews Network, etc.
The conference is planned in the Pakistani federal capital Islamabad.
The two-day international conference is planned for March 6 (Wednesday) and 7 (Thursday), 2013.
Intermedia Pakistan (www.intermedia.pk), a national media development organization focusing on advocacy, research and training on media issues, has been working since 2009 on a key project aimed at reducing the risks for journalists and promoting safety for media in Pakistan. This effort has been supported since 2010 by International Media Support (IMS) and by Open Society Foundation-Pakistan (OSF) since mid-2012.
The project aims to establish the mechanisms, promoting the policies and facilitating the partnerships needed to improve the safety and security of Pakistani journalists through, among other things, creation of a set of sustainable forums that help develop consensus and implement policies with broad support for the safety and security of media practitioners; help journalists in distress; and assert the rights and responsibilities for media and government authorities in promoting a safer environment for journalists.
Through the establishment of partnership forums that bring together key stakeholders from within the media sector in Pakistan, it is expected that policies, initiatives and mechanisms that outline safety protocols and procedures, which are endorsed and adopted by the media as industry standards, to keep media practitioners safe, emerge.
A key objective of the project is also to create a national alliance of media stakeholders on safety of journalists and to go on to conduct an international conference in Islamabad on safety of journalists so that a formal alliance is established among the media rights and journalists safety organizations in Pakistan and abroad, which is expected to develop mechanisms to expand the scale and scope of support for journalists under duress and threat in Pakistan.
This objective assumes a critical importance in the backdrop of a new international initiative by the United Nations against impunity in the context of freedom of expression. Under the UN Action Plan five pilot countries, including Pakistan, have been selected to help a variety of national and international state and non-state actors to focus attention on scaling back impunity.
The supporters and implementers for the project on safety of journalists – IMS, FOSIP and Intermedia Pakistan – see the new UN Action Plan, launch in Pakistan of which is expected in early 2013, as an opportunity to amalgamate the outcomes of the project with the principle aims of the Action Plan. This is seen as a means of complementing efforts in the same direction and in the expectation of both a higher profile for the efforts to raise awareness about the needs and mechanisms of promoting an agenda of safety of journalists and a combined effort to make practical efforts to scale back impunity against journalists in Pakistan.