By: Ikram Junaidi
ISLAMABAD: On an average, one journalist gets killed in the line of duty every 30 days.
Almost 91 journalists have been murdered since 2000 due to which Pakistan has become the third most dangerous country for journalists after Somalia and Syria. This was stated during a seminar titled ‘International Journalist Day’ organised at the National Press Club (NPC) here on Monday.
PML-Q Secretary-General Mushahid Hussain Syed said a journalist defence committee should be set up to safeguard the lives and rights of the journalists’ community. Relatives of journalists that had died in the line of duty should be provided the same status as that of the relatives of martyred paramilitary force officers.
He said militant wings of all political parties should be banned because they were involved in the killing of journalists.
Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said journalists were facing problems because the solution of these issues was not the priority of political parties.
He said: “At the moment, the priority of the government and political parties is to resolve the issue of dual nationality and on Monday a meeting of Senate Standing Committee of Law and Justice was held. A senator of MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) had submitted the revised bill to which I recorded my objection, but members of the committee passed the bill.” This showed the government was not interested in resolving the issues of the common man, he added.
Member of National Assembly (MNA) Syed Nasir Ali Shah of PPP said journalists were being killed because they were speaking the truth.
Sadia Haideri, the wife of Azizullah Haideri who was killed in Afghanistan in 2001 while reporting for a foreign news agency, said she suffered a lot because of her husband’s death.
“I was a housewife but after the death of my husband, I started a job to ensure good education for my daughter Alina and son Hamid. The news agency helped me financially but the government did nothing. I have passed my time but the government should at least help the families of those who died recently,” she said.
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) President Waqar Satti said a fund would be established to help relatives of martyred journalists.
Journalist Hamid Mir said Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem have been killing journalists in Balochistan.
“In the province, journalists have become sandwich between state and non-state actors,” he said, adding that the Press Club of Khuzdar, the second largest city of Balochistan, was closed on September 29 because of terrorist threats and still remains closed.
President of South Asian Women in Media Pakistan (SAWM) Fauzia Shahid said along with agencies some non-state actors were also threatening journalists.
She said the murderers of Saleem Shahzad (a journalist of Islamabad who was kidnapped and killed in May 2011) could not be arrested because the community did not raise a voice for him.
“Working journalists should get health and life insurance, and the management should provide them with safety gear,” she said.
Member of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) Abdul Shakoor Goraya said a journalists’ job was difficult all over the world but in Pakistan, they faced the most difficult situation.
Journalist Shahidur Rehman said in the 70s and 80s, journalists were threatened and faced lashes, but no one was killed. However, now their job had changed and even their families were facing torture and threats.
Bilal Dar, the moderator of the seminar, said only in Balochistan 27 journalists had been killed since 2006 and the situation was getting worse with each passing day.
Killers of Daniel Pearl (Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002) had been arrested but not a single murderer of a Pakistani journalist has arrested, he said.