Fifth Meeting of Pakistan Coalition for Media Safety (PCOMS)

PCOMS urges government for serious action in cases of two missing journalists 

Karachi, 28 Jan 2015: Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety, PCOMS expressed concern over the complete silence in the cases of two missing journalists from Sindh. 

Hakim Abro, a journalist from Ghotki was abducted on April 22nd, incidentally while he was travelling with a police constable. Despite the passage of over 3 months since his adduction, there has been no reported progress in his case. Hakim was associated with Dharti TV. Another journalist, Shahid Ali, went missing from Sukkur on June 2nd. Ali was working with Bol News and has previously been associated with Geo News. Despite continued protests from journalist bodies, there has been no known development to recover these journalists from their abductors. 

PCOMS members condemned this callous attitude of the authorities in these cases and called the lack of action deplorable.  PCOMS members also condemned the killing of Baloch journalist Zafarukkah Jattak, and once again stressed the need to end impunity in journalist killings. Jacket was killed on June 28th at his home in Quetta. 

The meeting expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the investigations of journalists’ killings. The committee urged the government to make public the report of judicial commission investigating the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir.

The meeting also endorsed and welcomed UN Resolution 22/22 passed in May 2015, focusing on journalist safety. Members talked about the need to share the resolution further and capitalise upon its potential. Members requested UNESCO, the UN Agency with the mandate of journalist safety to facilitate a national consultation on the resolution. 

The steering committee members welcomed the progress made by PCOMS and called for proactive action by PCOMS  in developing a consolidated and comprehensive action plan and mechanisms for safety of journalists.

Fourth meeting of PCOMS Steering Committee (Karachi)

Decisions of the Steering Committee

  1. Appointment of Special Prosecutor on Violence against Media

The Steering Committee felt the appointment of special public prosecutor would be helpful in putting pressure on the police for investigating and further processing cases of media attacks.

As UNESCO had taken the lead in studying the appointment of such prosecutors in other countries, the Steering committee requested UNESCO, Islamabad to prepare a concept paper on how the office of special prosecutor has functioned in other countries, such as Mexico and Colombia. COMS could then approach to the provincial governments with details of what would be expected from governments for appointment of special public prosecutor on violence against media.

The Steering Committee created a Working Group on Appointment of Special Prosecutor on Violence against Media and designated Mr. Mazhar Abbas as the Chair of the working group.

The working group will present a report at the next meeting of the Steering Committee and also propose for members of the working group that would carry forward the directions of the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee asked the COMS Secretariat to prepare a preliminary list of cases of violence against media of various press freedom organizations so that a determination could be made on cases that could be perused in courts. The Steering Committee also asked the COMS to submit the list and details of attacks on media in each quarterly meeting.

  1. Developing Safety Protocols for Media Organisations and Professionals

The Steering Committee agreed to assist media organizations develop safety protocols for media personnel, as they could be important in minimizing security threats. The meeting stressed the need for training of editors, owners, newsroom staff, reporters and district correspondents to sensitize them about the issue of safety.

The SC meeting asked the COMs secretariat to gather protocols that may have been developed by civil society and media organizations in Pakistan and internationally. These protocols could be the basis of consultations to develop a framework for developing safety protocols by individual media Organisations.

The Steering Committee decided to establish a Working Group on Developing Safety Protocols for Media and unanimously agreed to appoint Mr. Mohammed Ziauddin as the chair.

  1. Legislation on Media Safety

The meeting requested UNESCO, Islamabad to prepare a brief note on whether such legislation exists in other countries and what the impact of such legislation has been in those countries. The issue of legislation on media safety at federal and provincial level would be discussed in greater detail in the next meeting of the Steering Committee.

  1. Designation of Contact Persons on violence against media at federal and provincial level.

The meeting asked the federal and provincial governments to designate contact persons on violence against media so that media professionals, civil society organizations and concerned citizens may be able to get information on progress regarding specific cases of violence against media personnel.

  1. Condemnation of Attack on Express Media Group

The Steering Committee strongly condemned the attack on the offices of Express Media Group in Karachi and called for proper investigation of the incident so that the responsible can be brought to book. The meeting also demanded the government to provide proper security to all media houses and professionals.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Joint statement of shared concerns about attacks on journalists in Pakistan 

29 May 2014 

H.E. Mr. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Dear Prime Minister

Three years ago today, journalist Saleem Shahzad was abducted a short distance away from his Islamabad home and later found dead,his body bearing marks consistent with torture. We, the representatives of the undersigned group of civil society organisations working in human rights andmedia,call on you to fulfil your promise to end the impunity enjoyed by individuals and groups who threaten,attack, abduct, torture and kill journalists in Pakistan. In order to address these attacks on journalists, we urge you to follow through on the commitments you made in March,and as a first phase country for the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and to take further concrete steps along the lines set out below.

Based on our collective experiences monitoring human rights globally,Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, judging by the severity and extent of threats and attacks on media professionals due to their reporting. Dozens of journalists have been killed in Pakistan in direct response to their work over the last decade. At least eight journalists have been killed since your government came to power in June 2013.

Journalists and other media workers from across Pakistan face harassment, abduction, torture and attempts on their lives by state intelligence officers, members of political parties and armed groups like the Taliban. Journalists reporting on national security and human rights,and those reporting from the conflict-affected northwest, violence-ravagedBalochistan and the city of Karachi are most at risk as they rarely enjoyprotection from the state or support from their employers.

We are deeply concerned at the failure of successive Pakistan governments to carry out prompt, impartial, independent and thorough investigations into abuses against journalists, or to bring those responsible to justice. Attempts onthe lives of Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi and the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzadexemplifythe enduring challenge to justice when journalists come under attack: as far as our organisations are aware, no one has been brought to justice for any of these attacks. Only in two cases of journalist killings have the perpetrators ever been convicted in Pakistan.

The failure to bring those responsible for attacks on journalists to justicesends a signal that the media can be silenced through violence and that the perpetrators can literally get away with murder and other abuses. It also hasa chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan, withjournalists increasingly resorting to self-censorship to avoid the risk of harm.

It is the Pakistan government’s duty under international law to protect the rights to life, liberty and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of all individuals within its territory and under its jurisdiction, including journalists. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Pakistan must also ensure the media is free to carry out its critical function of facilitating and promoting freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR. Journalists play a vital role in exposing human rights abuse. Ensuring that journalists are able to undertake their work free from harassment and abuse is therefore an essential cornerstone in the protection and promotion of human rights in Pakistan.

We call on your Government to urgently takethe following steps, in line with Pakistan’s international legal obligations,so that journalists may carry out their work free from harassment and abuse:

  • Re-start the criminal investigations into the abduction and killing of Saleem Shahzad, as promised by the current Pakistan government, and ensure that all potential suspects, including members of any military and intelligence authorities, are subjected to a full, independent and impartial investigation.
  • Ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into human rights abuses against journalists, including abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings.
  • Ensure that all persons suspected of crimes involving human rights abuses against journalists, regardless of their status, rank or affiliation with state or non-state groups,are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
  • Implement the Prime Minister’s announced plan to establish a public prosecutor at the federal and provincial levels tasked with investigating attacks against journalists, and ensure that it is independent, adequately staffed and resourced, and has authority to investigate the military and intelligence services in addition to civilians. Also implement the Prime Minister’s commitment to expedite the prosecution of the killers of journalists by changing trial venues and expanding witness protection programs.
  • Ensure, in line with the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,that media companies adhere to requirements on due diligence, health and safety, among other standards in national law and policy; and introduce systemic legal and policy reforms where such requirements either do not exist in national law or are inadequate.

We welcome your concern about the situation for journalists in Pakistan and look forward to the Pakistan government taking real steps to improve the working environment for journalists in Pakistan.

Yours sincerely

  1. Amnesty International – Salil Shetty, Secretary General
  2. Article 19 (UK) – Thomas Hughes, Executive Director
  3. Committee to Protect Journalists – Joel Simon, Executive Director
  4. Freedom House – Karin Karlekar, Project Director, Freedom of the Press.
  5. Human Rights Watch?
  6. International Federation of Journaliststbc
  7. International News Safety Institute ?
  8. Internews tbc
  9. Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety?
  10. Pen International – tbc
  11. Reporters Without Borders – Christopher Deloire, Secretary-General
  12. South Asia Free Media Association?

Letter to Commission to Investigate the attack on Hamid Mir

In response to the public call made by the honorable Judicial Commission, for any individual or organization to come forward to submit any testimony and / or materials that can aid in investigating the attack on prominent journalist Mr Hamid Mir and in recommending measures that can prevent or minimize such attacks in the future, PCOMS submitted an expression of interest in aiding the honorable Judicial Commission.

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Third meeting of PCOMS Steering Committee (Karachi)


1- Owais Aslam Ali, PCOMS and Pakistan Press Foundation, Karachi
2- Iqbal Khattak, PCOMS, Peshawar
3- Jabbar Khattak, Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), Karachi
4- Shaikh Wasim Ahmed, Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA), Islamabad
5- Mazhar Abbas, senior journalist, Karachi
6- Dr. Tanvir Tahir, APNS, Karachi

Attended by special invitation

1. Phyza Jameel, UNESCO, Islamabad
2. Asad Baig, FOSI, Islamabad
3. Afzal Butt, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)
4. Amer Ejaz Butt, CPDI, Islamabad
5. Afia Salam, Freelance journalist, Karachi
6. Imtiaz Faran, KPC, Karachi
7. Zohra Yousuf, HRCP, Karachi
8. Shafqat Ali Soomro, PPI, Karachi

1. Dure Shahwar-Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi
2. Naseem Shaikh- Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi


1. Adnan Rehmat, Civil Action Resources (CAR)
2. Haider Abbas Rizvi, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Karachi
3. Muhammad Ziauddin, Express Tribune, Islamabad
4. Babar Sattar
5. Moneeza Hashmi, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, Lahore
No response

1. Pervez Rasheed, Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting
2. Sherry Rehman
3. Raza Rabbani
4. Sheerin Mazari
5. I.A. Rehman

The Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS) held its fourth Steering Committee meeting on May 16, 2014 in Hotel Movenpick Karachi. The meeting took place in the back drop of the crisis following the murderous attack on senior anchor Hamid Mir.

Owais Aslam Ali started the meeting and welcomed the participants. Then participants formally introduced themselves.

Owais Aslam: UN Action Plan was launched in Mar 19 2013 in five pilot countries for the safety and security of journalists and the issue of Impunity. Pakistan is among those five countries. PCOMS is a national strategic alliance of key stakeholders working for safety of journalists and on impunity issue. In Pakistan, the PCOMS Steering Committee is comprises of the representatives of Civil Society, Political Parties, Journalists and from the government. When PCOMS started, the situation of media was not as worst as now but hope to find the way out soon.

Phyza Jameel: The actual reason of PCOMS is to make a think tank for analysis and to take stance on issue of impunity in Pakistan. In last meeting, we decided to take our agenda to the stakeholder for making the effort fruitful, and Hamid Mir was the first person who raised his hand to take that initiative.

Imtiaz Faran: Unfortunately, the media community itself is playing negative role against media. Situation is worse than ever. Media community including the owners should meet and sit together to sort out the solution. Government seems helpless although it can do if take the issue serious.

Afzal Butt: The way to present the story is different in different TV channels as well as newspapers as they have their own agendas to promote that are far away from media ethics and code of conduct. PFUJ always stands with Hamid Mir and will remain with him in the fight against media violations till end.

Iqbal Khattak: April 19 2014 incident of attack on Hamid Mir was among the worst examples of violence against journalists. I personally understand Mr, Mir when met in CPJ deligation’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he announced the media commission for the safety of journalists in March 2014. I found him very host and sincere to his work. He wrote for the missing persons in Balochistan, for that, the case was registered against him in 2011.

Phyza: Yes the trend is getting change to worse and unfortunately the media is against media now.

Zohra Yousuf: Media itself is shrinking its space towards free press. Geo alleges DG ISI but in the case of Wali Khan Babar, Geo did not disclose the name of MQM. Media itself should be unbiased first. Seeing the condition, we need to be alert and be on one platform over one point agenda on the issues of safety of journalists and media men and impunity. It should have be included in March declaration that media owners should keep their personal disputes away and unite on media safety and issues of ethics.

Dr. Tanvir Tahir: I was out to solve the accommodation issues.

Dr. Jabbar Khattak: I think we are going above the mandate. The issues are separate and we should discuss one by one. The owners and even the editors working in the mainstream media are not performing their duties ethically and in some media houses, the work is on without any editor on the desk. Media freedom is only possible when media shows unbiased attitude. We being a media are ignoring the rights of our consumers and working against them. We are highlighting either the advertiser or non state actors of the society. The real stakeholders are our consumers and media should be watchdog of them. The recruitment of staff in media houses should also be proper to minimize the mistakes making by media now a days. Mostly the workers are under pressure by the owners and they have to work according to owners wish.

Phyza: Problems are in bulk, but what we should do is to separate the issues, give priority to one and get start to resolve the issue.

Mazhar Abbas: When the case ingestions of Hamid Mir are getting done by those who are the alleged attackers, than why should be the GIT report acceptable by media. Same was done in Saleem Shahzad murder case. The accused organization should not be involved in the investigations. In Hamid Mir attack and blockade of Geo transmission case, the role of some journalists is also questionable. Cable operators were also silent during first 7 days of Mir’s attack, Religious leader Hafiz Saeed was also appeared on Geo TV for solidarity but suddenly they had changed their opinions and thoughts. I think these discussions should not be done on screen but resolved in separate meetings like today. Nothing should be handed over to the cable operators.

Owais: I think, PCOMS actual challenge is now becoming difficult. Pemra should pay attention on the recommendations given by media commission.

Phyza: What should be the way forward in this media civil war like situation? I think first of all, we need to unite on one point that the attack on Hamid Mir is a direct attack on freedom of expression and it should be separated from other issues.

Aafia Salaam: One of the media commission’s recommendations is to review all 65 media laws. The members of the review committee were all civil society members mostly of lawyers and not a single journalist is in it. I think there is a need to change the mindset and restructure the committees and media laws. We are divided even in PFUJ, we need to be united first.

Afzal Butt: PFUJ always struggles for the rights of journalists. Even in the previous case of FIR registered by Khalid Khwaja against Hamid Mir, we were standing with him. I think the danger for journalist comes from owner more than state or anti state elements. We should be united and take stance for our rights and safety, security issue against media owners.

Mazhar Abbas: The definition of working journalist should be redefined. They should not be involved with any political or religious party, also should not work with other non media organization.

Iqbal Khattak: I think news room is responsible for the safety of journalist. There is a communication gap between newsroom and the reporter. The gap should be reduced and the editor should be a professional journalist because the selection of proper words in a news is must otherwise it can harm the reporter who is facing the camera and public.

Jabbar Khattak: CPNE has made efforts for the safety of journalists with the start of a complaint and rescue center that is only one call or text away from its members. It has been started in Karahi, Lahore and Islamabad and would be further expended soon. 40,000 security guards have been appointed for that. Raza Rumi was also provided by security guards by CPNE.

Phyza Jameel: Let’s sum up the discussion. The outcomes of today’s discussion are:

• Attack on Hamid Mir is an issue of freedom of expression and it must be separated by other issues.
• The issue of Geo closure should be discussed in pemra.
• A meeting should be planned with Marvi Memon.
• Try to arrange a meeting with media owners for the safety of journalists’ issue.
• Try to arrange meeting with cable operators (Khalid Arain)


The issue of safety of journalists has taken a paramount importance in prevailing situation and there is a dire need to devise a consensus mechanism for a media code of conduct to promote ethical journalism in the country. In this regards newsrooms can play a crucial role through proper check and balance not only for a stronger editorial content but to also to mitigate the threats facing journalists, said speakers at the fourth steering committee meeting of Pakistan Coalition of Media Safety (PCOMS) at local hotel Friday evening.

They noted that all stakeholders including journalists, media houses, journalists’ unions, and government should come forward to tackle the issues related to the safety of journalists. A threat to any journalist is a threat to whole media and hence the attack on Hamid Mir is the attack of the freedom of expression. His case deserves a free, fair and unbiased inquiry. The media professionals and organizations should keep this discourse alive. The current situation needs the media should support the media and petty differences should be shunned in the larger interest of journalist fraternity. The attack on Hamid Mir should have united the media in Pakistan but sadly it sent the media confused, divided and polarized. This divide of media would only support those hidden hands and non-state actors that are against the freedom of expression in this country.

There is a need of forging a strong unity amongst the media community and all the issues on which there is a difference of opinion should be resolved amicably by the genuine stakeholders, themselves. The prevailing tension should be diffused on emergent basis and let the issues are resolved through discussion and dialogue. The inner divisions and rifts amongst media community are more dangerous than the outer threats glaring it and the media should work as a community for the larger cause of journalists’ welfare, security and safety.

The constitution of Pakistan guarantees certain liberties and independences including media freedom and no one should be allowed to usurp these constitutional rights; however, it also needs that media should devise its own code of conduct and some rules of business should be agreed upon to ensure smooth, safe and hassle-free working of media in Pakistan. Recently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while meeting a delegation of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has assured to establish a joint government-journalists commission to address continued attacks on the press, develop recommendations, and serve as an interlocutor between the media and the government. This was a big achievement for the Pakistani media; however, the prevailing tense situation in local media is eclipsing it to a large extent. Similarly, there is an urgent need to appoint special prosecutors in all four provinces and federal level to investigate crimes against journalists. The case of attack on Hamid Mir has further raised the importance of urgent appointment of a special prosecutor. The journalists and media organizations should also raise voice formulate suggestions in this regard.

The incident of April 19, 2014 is a big setback for the freedom of expression in the country. PCOMS supports the demand of an unbiased inquiry in this regard and it considers attack on any journalist as the attack on the freedom of expression as a whole. The media is not a forum to try anyone. Pakistan needs a culture of ethical and responsible journalism. It should also respect the rights of a reader, listener and viewer as a media consumer. It needs to promote the concept of ‘content audit’ to promote a healthy and responsible journalism. It is also necessary that a high-powered body should be formed on urgent basis to resolve complaints against media.

Safety Protocols for Media Houses & Journalists (Urdu)

حصہ اول: حفاظتی پالیسی کی رہنما ہدایات اور میڈیا ہاؤسز کے لیے معیاری دستور العمل (ایس او پیز) 1۔ عملے کی جانب سے میڈیا کوریج کا بنیادی اصول “کوئی خبر زندگی سے زیادہ اہم نہیں ہے” ہوگا۔ یہی اصول نیوز مینیجرز پر بھی لاگو ہوگا جو عملے کو کسی مخصوص متنازع علاقے میں بھیجنے سے پہلے خطرات کا اندازہ لگاتے ہیں۔ میدان عمل میں موجود عملے پر دباؤ کو سمجھنے کے لیے ایڈیٹرز/سپروائزرز کی تربیت کی جائے گی۔ رپورٹر کو ایسے اسائنمنٹ سے ‘انکار’ کا حق حاصل ہوگا جو زیادہ خطرے کے حامل ہوں۔

PCOMS Working Group Proposals on Safety Protocols for Media Houses and Journalists


The principle governing media coverage by staff will be that “no story is worth your life.” The same rule will apply to news managers who are expected to carry out the risk assessment before deploying the crew in a particular hostile zone. The editors / supervisors will be trained to understand the pressures of staff in the field. The reporter will have the right to say ‘no’ to carrying out assignments that carry higher risks.

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