Govt asked to protect journalists, arrest attackers

A seminar at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday condemned the continuing tendency in the country to murder journalists, and urged the government to ensure protection for media persons.

The event was organized jointly by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) and the Karachi Press Club (KPC) to mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists and discuss a PPF report in this regard.

KPC Secretary Maqsood Yusufi slated the lack of action against the culprits and demanded the disclosure of the details of the Salim Shehzad murder case to the public. Owais Aslam Ali, secretary of the PPF, said that over the last two years, the tolerance for dissent had been visibly decreasing.

He said that of the 73 journalists killed since 2002, 48 had been targeted for murder while the others had been killed in events like suicide bomb blasts. He lamented that there was never any follow-up to the investigations and cases just fizzled out as time went by, affording the criminals an opportunity to have a field day.

He said there had been convictions in only five cases. He said that recently the United Nations had asked the Government of Pakistan for a list of the slain journalists, but the government expressed total ignorance.

Ali was of the view that we could not write on the most vital issues like militancy and extremism. He brought to the notice of the participants the sea change that had taken place in the situation, pointing out that between 1947 and 1987, only one journalist had been killed and that too in crossfire.

He also regretted that media houses and newspaper owners just did not bother to follow up cases for the relief of their workers. Alina Zainab Alavi, an advocate, stressed the importance of eyewitnesses in deciding cases and investigations, saying investigations were sabotaged by intimidating or cajoling witnesses.

She said Sindh’s conviction rate for murder was 35 percent. She suggested that there should be a JIT (joint investigation team) to look into the murder of journalists.  She proposed that there be a time-frame for decision in the murder cases and that the process of investigation be as transparent as possible. Some of the affected people were also present to narrate their tales of woe.

Fauzia Dahar, whose brother Shan Dahar, a journalist with Abb Tak TV, was killed on the night of January 1, 2014, in his office while covering New Year celebrations, said that there had been two JITs to probe his killing but all without any outcome.

She said she went to the DIG, the home secretary and the superintendent of police, who had an impeccable reputation of being very honest, but it was just like pouring water over a duck’s back. She said the DIG who was there at that time was there even today and that he was most callous.

Faheem Siddiqui, secretary of the Karachi Union of Journalists, made a startling disclosure, namely, that the actual murderers of US journalist Daniel Pearl were roaming scot-free. He said we had to extricate ourselves from the antiquated investigation methods and switch over to things like forensic sciences.

He disclosed that the Journalists’ Protection Bill which was supposed to be announced in 2014 was absolutely one-sided in the sense that the recommendations of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) were not even considered, leave aside included.

Senior journalist Idrees Bakhtiar said that there would have to be a revolution to bring about a sea change in the outlook of the authorities that be and one of the requirements for that, he said, was that the journalist community be united as a rock.

Dr Jabbar Khattak of the APNS said that what really was called for was a united front to be put up by the journalist community. Former KPC president Aamir Lateef said what was needed even more than laws was an iron-jacketed implementation machinery to implement them.

Sadaf Khan of Media Matters for Democracy said Pakistan was among the top 10 countries with maximum murders of journalists.

The News International