Banned outfits, security institutions held responsible for attacks on media

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By: Iqbal Khattak

ISLAMABAD: Banned militant organisations, state’s security institutions and political parties were identified on Wednesday as key elements responsible for attacks on the media, as delegates framed problems to promote collaborative approaches to combating impunity on crimes against journalists during the inaugural day of international conference on safety and security of journalists in the country.

“Banned outfits, political (parties) and intelligence agencies are the problems. I am under threat, and the state is not supporting us,” TV anchor Asma Shirazi told the conference with other panellists pointing fingers at banned outfits, intelligence agencies and political parties, as she added: “Intelligence people tape our phones, chase us.”

Delegates from 15 media support organisations, ambassadors from Denmark and Norway and UNESCO officials were among the participants of the two-day conference opened with inaugural comments from Adnan Rehmat, executive director of Pakistani media development organisation Intermedia.

“The situation is very complex and critical,” Pervez Shaukat, president of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, joined Asma Shirazi in sensitising the participants about the extent the security situation prevails across the country.

“The conditions we are working in are serious,” Shirazi said, seeking the conference’s participants “to put pressure on the government to protect us”.

The PFUJ president said he was moving the Supreme Court with 16 cases of journalists to pave the way for the apex court’s interference with aim to stem the impunity on crimes against journalists.

Journalist Absar Alam, with fingers pointing in direction of map with red dots showing whose journalist was killed where and when, said these dots had potential to increase suggesting attacks on media were far from over.
Moving away from identifying the parties responsible for this situation, Absar added that owners of media houses were equally “responsible for these killings”. He said lack of office of editor in the TV channels was adding to the worsening security situation the journalists were facing.
“The editors and journalists who won’t speak up for welfare of their tribe are partners in crime,” Absar Alam held the view. Muhammad Ziauddin added: “Owners have perhaps sold their souls to the market.”

Christopher Warren of International Federation of Journalists touched the controversial step – engaging the groups or non-state actors attacking media and killing journalists.

In his list of points to emphasise the state to meet its obligation, Chris said there was need to reach out to groups and political parties. “It is quite controversial… and these dialogues are critical,” he told the conference participants.

The foreign delegates shared international experiences with Benjamin Ismail from the Reporters Without Borders, stressing that impunity could only be tackled by the government.

A session involving lawmakers to promote legislating for journalists’ safety proved mirror for the journalist community itself with parliamentarians taking up least consideration of code of ethics by media houses and professionals working for these organisations.

“Media is standing united to get (their) rights?” parliamentarian Kashmala Tariq asked, adding that she understood security for journalists was pertinent because the nation would go to polls.

Kashmala Tariq said politicians were even more vulnerable at the behest of the media, suggesting that there “has to be a limit to both sides”.
Adnan Randhawa of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf stunned the participants by saying: “We get blackmailed by black sheep in the media.”

However, Kashmala said small media houses got the politicians blackmailed than big organisations.

No more than one editor – Muhammad Ziauddin – was seen participating in the conference.

The conference participants pressed the parliamentarians to make journalists’ safety parties’ election manifesto with Adnan Rehmat suggesting PML (N) leader Khurram Dastagir if his party in Punjab would take lead in appointing special prosecutor investigating cases involving attacks on media and journalists.

Source: Daily Times

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