PFUJ mourns fallen comrades on World Press Freedom day
PESHAWAR: In the past year, five journalists and one editor have been killed in the country, a national union of journalists said on Wednesday, a day ahead of World Press Freedom Day.
“A new trend of violence targeting journalists and their families has emerged in Pakistan,” Mazhar Abbas, secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists told Daily Times. 2006 was seen as the “deadliest” year because so many journalists were killed.
“The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) calls for safety measures, life insurance, free medical coverage and safety training for reporters, cameramen and photojournalists,” the union said in a press statement. Attacks on journalists and their families have included the brothers of two journalists being murdered, forcing them to leave his home, while conditions in tribal areas have forced several reporters to quit the profession, the PFUJ statement read.
The report said that out of the six journalists abducted, one, Hayatullah Khan, had been killed while the others were released after being physically tortured. “Almost all the private news channels are under official scrutiny and have received press coverage advice while some have faced unofficial suspension, fines or blocked TV licences for political reasons.”
The PFUJ report said that dozens of journalists in the tribal areas of NWFP and Balochistan have “quit journalism because of threats from security agencies and pressure groups”. “Presently there are only a few journalists in those areas who work as stringers for international media,” the report stated.
The report said that the free press “was being intimidated” by the kidnapping of journalists by intelligence agencies. It demanded that the government release the inquiry report, conducted by a Peshawar High Court judge, of Hayatullah Khan’s murder.
A global media rights group said Pakistan has become the second most dangerous country for journalists in South Asia. “Two Asian nations — Pakistan and Thailand — are among the countries where press freedom has deteriorated the most over the last five years,” according to the New York-based media rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has decried “the use of anti-terrorism legislation” to suppress free speech. “The growing trend to brand anyone who reports on, speaks out against or questions government action as a terrorist is of grave concern,” the organisation said in a statement. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, governments have either strengthened or passed new and more stringent anti-terrorism laws, the CHRI added. “In many cases these measures serve political agendas rather than counter terrorism.”