NA body to take up threats to media persons

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ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly committee gets a detailed briefing next Wednesday on investigations into all attacks and killing of media persons over the past three years.

The one-point agenda of the sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage is: detailed briefing on the investigation of all attacks/martyred/killing on media persons since 2011 to date from each province/territory; and the criteria adopted to provide compensation to the families of the media persons who were killed/martyred/injured in terrorist attacks while performing duty.

Ms Naeema Kishwar Khan is the convener of the sub-committee while its members include Muhammad Talal Chaudhry, Imran Zafar Leghari and Afzal Khan Jadoon.Since the briefing will cover the attacks on journalists to-date, it will obviously include the assassination attempt on eminent Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir in Karachi on April 19.

In a piece, titled ‘Pakistan’s Media Under Siege’, written in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher Mustafa Qadri wrote that at least 34 Pakistani journalists have been killed because of their reporting since democracy was restored in 2008. In only one case have those responsible been brought to justice. This year alone five journalists have been killed and dozens more have either received death threats, or were abducted and tortured, or survived attempts on their lives.

He wrote that attacks on the media are not new in Pakistan. But events over the past weeks have brought the crisis in Pakistan’s journalism into sharp focus. On April 19, gunmen tried to assassinate Hamid Mir, a popular news anchor with the largest private broadcaster

Geo TV.

“. . . The standoff is a chilling reminder of the ever-present threat of censorship that hangs over media enterprises as well as individual journalists. . . Geo TV’s allegations . . . must be taken seriously. Only a thorough, independent and impartial investigation will reveal Hamid Mir’s assailants. Dozens of other journalists have also contacted Amnesty International to register claims of harassment and abuse. Most refused to go public about their ordeals out of fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” Qadri wrote.

He noted that only a few of the 74 cases investigated by Amnesty International have led to prosecution, with conviction in two cases. “This failure has sent the signal that powerful actors are free to stifle the media through violence. That in turn has a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the society’s ability to openly discuss social and political issues, as journalists increasingly self-censor to avoid the risk of abuse. Only immediate steps to address this impunity can stem the rising tide of abuses. The Pakistani government must start by ensuring that the perpetrators in all cases, including the high-profile assassination attempts on Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi, are brought to justice regardless of their affiliations. The media enterprises themselves must also provide adequate training, support and assistance to their staff and not undermine the efforts of rival outlets to seek justice for their journalists.

Without these urgent steps, there is a very serious risk that more of Pakistan’s journalists will be intimidated into silence.”

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