Pakistan among countries where killers of journalists go unpunished, says CPJ

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ranked at the 9th position among countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free, according to the Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which does this ranking in order to bring under spotlight the countries performing at their worst in prosecuting the cases of slain journalists.

The report further pointed out three countries, again Pakistan included, where “corruption, weak institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigations into the killings of journalists are all factors behind impunity in Pakistan, Mexico and the Philippines.” In the last 10 years, as many as 15 journalists have been murdered in Pakistan and in none of the cases, killers have been brought to justice.

The top 12 countries ranked worst performers in this respect are in the following order: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia and India. The CPJ’s Global Impunity Index counts the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. For this purpose, the unsolved murder of journalists occurred between September 1, 2010, and August 31, 2020, were examined.

Only the countries with five or more unsolved cases were considered for the index. The CPJ takes into account the cases where it is clear that a journalist has been killed due to his journalistic work, not for any other reason. Journalists killed in combat or while on assignments such as violent protests have not been considered for this index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained, even if suspects have been identified and are in custody.

Although, the Daniel Pearl case is out of the scope of this index, it has gained attention due to the Sindh High Court’s decision of overturning the conviction of four men accused in killing the US journalist in Karachi. “In Pakistan, a surprise legal development this year – while not directly affecting the 2020 Impunity Index – showed that even murder cases that were long thought to be resolved can be upended,” said the report that quoted the CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon that freeing them “would be a devastating setback for justice that would also send a dangerous message to jihadi militants in Pakistan and around the world, who have systematically targeted journalists in the 18 years since Pearl was killed.”

Pakistan and the Philippines have been mainstays on the impunity index of CPJ since its inception in 2008. The Philippines has, however, improved this year moving in ranking from the fifth worst country worldwide to the seventh worst in prosecuting cases of murdered journalists. While the Philippines moved down the index, Mexico – the deadliest country for journalists in the Western hemisphere – moved to the sixth worst impunity ranking from seventh last year. The number of unsolved murders in Mexico is 26 for this 10-year period compared with 30 unsolved murders for the previous index.

The past year 2019 marked the lowest number of journalists murdered in reprisal for their work which the CPJ has recorded in any year since 1992. The reason is difficult to pinpoint, the report said, with self-censorship, the use of other tools to intimidate reporters, and the high profile nature of some recent cases potentially playing the role.

The number of murders in 2020 has already exceeded 2019, but is not on track for a major increase. A couple of additional legal developments, the report reads, don’t bode well for ending the cycle of violence and injustice.

Newspaper: The News