The safety of journalists is important to ensure transparent and fair reporting, however, the culture of impunity against crimes towards journalists hinders every possibility of fair reporting. It also raises question about the freedom of media and our ‘so-called’ open societies.
Although, journalists around the world face immense pressure and often risk their lives, in the line of duty. However, Pakistan is one of the worst when it comes to the safety of journalists. According to the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 countries.
According to data collected and curated by Media Matters for Democracy, 120 Journalists and media workers have lost their lives in the line of duty since 2000. Out of these 120, 84 were targeted and of these 84 targeted murders, only three killers were convicted. 81 perpetrators are roaming around as free men with total impunity.
According to Committee to Protect Journalist’s (CPJ) 2017 Global Impunity Index, Pakistan is in the top 10 countries where journalists are killed and the killers go free. According to the CPJ’s findings, despite the promises made by the government to bring about laws to end impunity, there has been a 113% increase in impunity in Pakistan.
The recent attack on journalist Ahmed Noorani is such an example. The journalist was attacked and beaten by six assailants in broad daylight and none of them was captured on any of 1900 CCTV cameras in the capital.
The disqualified Ex-Premier of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, made a commitment to set up a commission for safety and security of journalists, during a meeting with a delegate from CPJ. Same promises were made by the then Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rasheed, he, while addressing a meeting of Steering Committee of Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS), said that the government was committed to the freedom of expression and was taking steps to ensure that the media persons could perform duty in a safe and secure environment. However, despite the assurances, the situation remains turbulent.
To commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Media Matters for Democracy and Committee to Protect Journalists has written a letter to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to ensure the safety of journalist and to honour the commitments made by his party leader Nawaz Sharif.
In any society or culture, impunity is synonymous with the failure to guarantee justice and – when it prevails – it sends out an invitation for more crime to occur. How do we expect journalists to work fearlessly when we can’t even ensure their safety? It’s high time that government and media organizations come together to make sure that no more journalists have to die while carrying out the responsible work.