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.