Fears Grow for Safety of Journalists in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in calling on Pakistan’s Government and media owners to address the extreme dangers confronting media workers in the country’s most troubled regions and towns, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Swat Valley, Baluchistan and Peshawar.

The PFUJ’s Biannual Delegates Meeting in Faisalabad at the weekend included a long session on the safety concerns of media personnel, which the PFUJ said was now the priority issue for Pakistan’s journalists’ community.

Journalists at the meeting spoke of their fear of death threats from various quarters and the great difficulties they had in compiling and submitting their news reports. Others said they had stopped sending their children to school in fear for their safety. Other accounts referred to the especially difficult circumstances for some women journalists in towns such as Peshawar.

The PFUJ, an IFJ affiliate, fears that many journalists will quit the profession or endure continuing threats if the Government and media owners do not take serious steps to ensure the protection of media personnel.

The PFUJ resolved to encourage a parliamentary inquiry into terrorism to invite journalists from the country’s trouble spots to give in-camera evidence.

The IFJ firmly endorses the union’s warning that media houses will be held responsible for harm committed against media personnel if they send reporters and camera operators into conflict areas without adequate safety training, insurance and the security of regular employment.

“Journalists should also take a stand with their editors in refusing to go in these areas without proper safety. Truth is dying in these areas and so are journalists,” a resolution of the meeting said.

The PFUJ welcomed the continuing support of the IFJ and called for national and global support for journalists working in Pakistan, including through further fact-finding missions.

The three-day meeting also elected new office-holders to the PFUJ. The new committee comprises Pervez Shukat (President), Asad Shai and Sohail Qalander (Vice-Presidents), Shamsul Islam Naz (Secretary General), Shakeel Yameen Kanga and Waseem Farooq Shahid (Assistant Secretaries General), and Makhdom Bilal Amir (Finance Secretary).

A report of the PFUJ’s investigation into the murder of Musa Khankhel is due to be released this week. The bullet-riddled body of Khankhel, a reporter for The News International and GEO News, was found on February 18 after he went missing in Swat that day.

He was the third journalist killed in the line of duty in Pakistan in 2009, and the fourth journalist killed in Swat since 2007.

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