AS the year drew to a close, there was yet another reminder of the dangers that stalk those whose profession demands that the truth be told.
On Wednesday, the International Federation of Journalists released its 24th annual list of journalists and other media persons who have died in work-related targeted or crossfire incidents, showing that the tally of 2014 lies at 118 — an increase of 13 killings as compared to last year.
Take a look: Pakistan ‘most dangerous country for media’ in 2014
This figure does not include those who died in accidents or natural disaster whilst on assignment. While the Asia Pacific region had the highest death toll, it was Pakistan that topped the unenviable list of countries where media workers were killed, with 14 people in this profession having been cut down during the past year.
The Federation warned that these findings were a “reminder of the gravity of the safety crisis in media” and called upon governments to urgently make the protection of journalists a priority.
There can be no argument that Pakistan’s circumstances have for years made it a dangerous country in which journalists must discharge their professional obligations.
Even so, the past year has seen some distressing new lows, from a major news network being forced off the cable operators’ list to a political figure hurling threats at journalists and the National Assembly’s standing committee wanting to impose restrictions on what can be reported on.
Meanwhile, the targeting of journalists by both state and non-state actors has continued with absolute impunity, with hardly any instance of the state going after the perpetrators with anywhere near the necessary resolve.
As the nation gears up for the long fight against militancy and terrorism, the situation is in danger of deteriorating further as the push and pull over information intensifies.
The answer lies in the hands of the government: were it to signal, through strong prosecution, its intolerance of attacks on journalists, the air of impunity would be dispelled. That would be a good start to defending this country’s hard-won media freedoms.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2015