REVIEW: Media Safety in Pakistan

09 Nov 2014

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MEDIA Safety in Pakistan: A Study of Threats to Journalists in Pakistan, published by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, provides a solid analysis of the problems faced by journalists trying to do their jobs. This study examines the threats posed to journalists all over the country, province by province, from large media houses to smaller newspapers, giving examples and speaking to representatives of unions, journalists and relatives of journalists killed in the line of duty. It also talks to journalists who have faced threats, perceived or real.

This book will prove particularly useful to anyone wanting to study the media landscape in Pakistan — researchers in and outside the country, students or anyone with a general interest in the media in Pakistan. It would also be good for new entrants into journalism who sometimes go onto a desk / beat without much knowledge of the history of Pakistani journalism. This book is current, which makes it an important read as the struggle by journalists to gain press freedoms is one that is ongoing.

Challenges faced by journalists can be gauged by the rise in violence against them. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 69 journalists were killed between 2009 and 2013. The threats have not abated in 2014. People can still remember the attack on Geo anchor Hamid Mir early this year that nearly cost him his life.

Threats come from state and non-state perpetrators, militants, political parties, thugs, mafias, separatists, tribal and feudal lords. That journalists are rarely protected makes things all the worse; many times they do not report the threats and if they do, their unions / employers can’t (or don’t) do anything about them. Many journalists relocate after reporting threats. What protection can or do their employers offer their staff? Private guards? This, let’s admit, is accorded to high profile journalists only. In fact, media houses are criticised for being interested only in their ratings and not in the well-being of their employees.

Journalists covering conflicts, security and terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Fata face the most threats from state and non-state players. Instead of protecting journalists working in conflict zones, law enforcement agencies are often responsible for journalists being vulnerable. The study provides ample evidence of this.

Arguably the most impressive section is a detailed case study of 10 journalists who were threatened or killed. It examines each of their profiles, from their socio-economic background to the kind of training they received on the job, from their salaries to the threats they faced based on their work. Another important component was the candidates’ political or religious affiliations as well any professional affiliations they may have had, which may have had an impact on their public perception. This detailed study within the book makes for fascinating reading.

Two special mentions should be made of the recommendations chapter — especially the note on media houses which must protect their employees by paying them suitable salaries in a timely manner at the very least. They should also offer training to their employees and ensure they are safe at all times. Another mention should be made of the tributes made to the 10 journalists killed in the line of duty because we often forget these heroes once their obituaries are printed. It’s important to honour them as this book has done.


Media Safety in Pakistan: A Study of Threats to Journalists in Pakistan

(MEDIA)

Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, Islamabad

ISBN 978-969-9370-19-9

109pp.