Introduction of PCOMS

Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS) is a national alliance of concerned civil society agents, media development groups, journalists’ bodies and media entities collaborating with a one point agenda – to jointly push for protection of journalists and making Pakistan a safer place for media practitioners. Established in 2013 with support from Open Society Foundations, International Media Support and UNESCO, PCOMS has been instrumental in bringing together national stakeholders and interfacing them with international experts working on media freedom globally.

For the past seven years (2007-2014), a journalist has been killed in Pakistan every 28 days. This is the highest fatality rate for journalists of any country in the world. For every journalist killed in Pakistan there are over a dozen who face other forms of harassment, intimidation, assault, injury, kidnapping, arrest or detention. If this is bad, what's worse is that attackers of not a single Pakistani journalist killed in line of duty have been found, prosecuted, convicted and punished. This is a reflection of the high degree of impunity (defined as freedom from punishment) that prevails against journalists and promotes continued attacks.

The United Nations in year 2013 launched the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity (UN PLAN) for implementation in five pilot countries, which unsurprisingly includes Pakistan. UNESCO is the lead agency implementing the UN Action Plan along with Open Society Foundation (OSF) and International Media Support (IMS). The UN Plan seeks to facilitate key stakeholders including the media, state, government authorities, civil society and international media support organizations to undertake joint and collaborative actions to combat impunity. The actions supported by the UN Plan of Action range from appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate crimes against media and its practitioners, seeking legal recourse in pursuance of justice for the victims, enactment of special legislation to protect journalists, drafting of safety protocols for media houses, etc.

To this effect, a UN-supported international conference in Islamabad in 2013 established the Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS) to serve as the platform for collaborative measures to combat impunity against journalists in Pakistan and to mobilize ideas resources, initiatives and actions. A Steering Committee was formed to serve as the national focal platform on promoting safety of journalists and media in Pakistan. The proposed PCOMS Steering Committee primarily includes representatives of media sector stakeholders, parliamentarians, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, representative from all political parties and renowned civil society personalities. PCOMS holds its secretariat at Pakistan Press Foundation in Karachi.