Speakers say PFUJ and other such organisations will have to take ownership of journalists’ safety; abduction of four bloggers shows people on digital media too at risk
Since 1990, 115 journalists have been killed and 185 injured in Pakistan while performing their duties, which shows that they are working in a dangerous environment where they are considered soft targets.
Aizaz Syed, the Geo News correspondent in Islamabad, while speaking at a seminar on the code of ethics for the media in Pakistan conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, Islamabad, said there was no law for the security of journalists.
“Most attacks on journalists occur in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan,” he added. Citing the case of the four bloggers who were kidnapped, whisked away to secret destinations, and tortured before being recently released, Syed observed that even people using digital media were no longer safe.
“Their [the bloggers’] only fault was that they had expressed their opinions openly on the complexion of the Pakistani society that they would have liked to see. For this freedom of thought and expression, they were treated like criminals,” he added.
Mubashir Zaidi of Dawn TV said there was a need for amending the code of ethics for media to include TV journalists. He added that organisations including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists would have to take ownership of journalists’ safety.
“It is incumbent on them to take responsibility for preparing a manual for the safety of their peers.”
The participants contended that journalists’ lives were also at risk because of the indifferent attitude of media owners, who did not take firm stand against the government and bent backwards to be on the right side of the ruling clique for their vested interests.
The unanimous opinion was that media proprietors had always looked the other way when any of their employees were killed.
The general consensus was that media owners had never paid heed to the idea of the safety of the employees and detached from the issue, emboldening anti-journalist forces.
There was an animated question-answer session with the participants. A young reporter, who ostensibly was a newcomer to the profession, asked as to why we were harping so much on the dangers confronting journalists when there were equally pressing civic problems that had a vitiating effect on the health and safety of citizens including garbage piled up along thoroughfares.
Sajjad Azhar, who was moderating the proceedings, said garbage disposal was certainly an issue of emergency, but people’s lives were more precious.
The speeches, discussions and question-answer sessions were preceded by the screening of a video featuring the views of journalists and academics on the issue, notably, Dawn TV’s Wusutullah Khan and Dr Tauseef Ahmed.
They rendered advice on the dos and don’ts of reporting amid hazardous situations. There were also heartrending interviews of the widows of slain journalists and their next-of-kin.