‘Fit for trial’

February 20, 2020

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ON Sunday, the lifeless body of journalist Aziz Memon was retrieved from an irrigation channel in Mehrabpur in Naushahro Feroze district. Faithful to his professional duty of holding the powerful accountable, he naturally ruffled feathers through his reporting for the Sindhi-language Daily Kawish and TV channel KTN. Now he has been killed, potentially in retaliation for his work. Prior to his murder, the visibly rattled journalist released a video in which he spoke of the ordeal he and his family were put through since reporting on allegations that crowds had been paid to attend rallies during the PPP’s train march in 2019. He said that he had travelled to Islamabad in order to meet with PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and implore him to take notice of the threats he was allegedly receiving from officials, who were making his life “a living hell”. In the video recording, he stated plainly: “I am neutral. I have no connection to any political party… I am merely a journalist.”

Sadly, the culture of impunity for attacks against journalists continues unabated as the list of unsolved murder cases piles up. According to a report by Freedom Network, 33 Pakistani journalists were murdered in the line of duty between 2013 and 2019. Out of these, only 60pc of cases were deemed ‘fit for trail’ by the courts, while only 18pc went on to trial. In a press conference yesterday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that his party condemned Aziz Memon’s murder “in the strongest terms possible”. Sindh’s ruling party must ensure an impartial and thorough investigation, especially since allegations have been raised against some of its own members. One can only hope his family receives justice, as far too many others have not. These silenced journalists include Hayatullah Khan, Irshad Mastoi, Javed Naseer Rind, Janullah Hashimzada, Mohammad Khan Sasoli and Saleem Shahzad. The journalist community and the state must never forget the names of the fallen — their families will not be at peace until justice is served.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020