A JOURNALIST’S life in Pakistan is often a perilous one, and never more so than when those in the profession work in small towns or remote areas.

On Wednesday, a large number of media-persons held a six-hour sit-in on the Indus Highway to protest against an attack on four journalists in Dadu district and the police’s inaction in apprehending the culprits.

The victims were allegedly abducted and detained by a feudal lord and his henchmen and subjected to such a brutal assault that they were left with grievous injuries; they were also paraded in their hometown of Johi so as to publicly shame them.

The local influential, whose family is well-represented in the provincial assembly, was apparently enraged when he found the journalists reporting on illegal tree felling in the area.

District correspondents have to contend with multidimensional problems in places where the feudal set-up, often reinforced by powerful political connections and a pliant, corrupt police, is unwilling to countenance any challenge to its clout and authority.

Moreover, unless they work for one of the larger media groups, outstation reporters are often poorly paid and sometimes not paid at all — which leads to problems of ethics — and are thus easily disowned by their parent organisations when they run afoul of local pressure groups.

However, in a country deemed one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists, especially since militant groups began to proliferate here, Balochistan presents the most high-risk scenario of all.

More than 30 journalists have been killed over the last five years in the province, where all manner of threats menace them: feuding tribals, religious extremists, insurgent groups and security forces, all of whom try to use the media to further their own agendas and sometimes, silence its practitioners.

In all these years, the murder of only one Pakistani journalist — Wali Khan Babar — has been successfully prosecuted.

Only a media that stops pandering to various interest groups and transcends its internal divisions can effectively counter this outrageous impunity.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2015

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