ISLAMABAD: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released its annual report as per which Pakistan has been ranked ninth among 12 countries where journalists have been killed and the murderers are still at large.

The CPJ’s 2021 ‘Global Impunity Index’ has also found that no one has been held to account in 81pc of journalists’ murder cases during the last 10 years.

The countries with the worst records of allowing killers of journalists to go free, according to the index are Somalia, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Bangladesh and India.

The report highlighted that globally at least “22 journalists were singled out for murder in 2020 for their work”, more than double the total for 2019.

While for 2021, the number of murders is tracking closely to last year’s, but political volatility in Afghanistan and other high-risk nations makes the final 2021 total difficult to predict.

According to the committee, Somalia remains the world’s worst country for unsolved killings of journalists, which spotlights countries where members of the press are singled out for murder and the perpetrators go free.

The index showed little change from a year earlier, with Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, in that order, again coming in behind Somalia to occupy the worst four spots on the list, as conflict, political instability and weak judicial mechanisms perpetuate a cycle of violence against journalists.

The data covers the period between Sept 1, 2011 and Aug 31, 2021 and does not fully reflect increased danger for journalists in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan ranked fifth, as it had in the previous two years; the situation on the ground for reporters deteriorated dramatically in 2021 as the Taliban took control in mid-August.

The CPJ added that promises made by the Taliban leadership to protect press freedom proved to be incorrect as within days of the takeover, its fighters carried out scores of violations against media workers, including beatings and arbitrary detentions.

Despite this, two of five journalists murdered in 2020 - Radio Azadi reporter Elyas Dayee and freelancer Rahmatullah Nikzad - had received threats from the Taliban prior to their deaths. It is unlikely that Afghanistan’s new Taliban government will seek out the killers, the report stated, adding that all 12 countries on the index have been featured in the report multiple times and seven have appeared every year. Mexico holds the sixth spot on the index for the second straight year and only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included in it.

CPJ defines murder as a deliberate killing of a specific journalist in retaliation for the victim’s work. This index does not include cases of journalists killed in combat or while they are on dangerous assignments, such as coverage of protests that turn violent.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2021

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