ISLAMABAD: There have been no convictions in 96pc of murder cases of journalists in Pakistan between 2012 and 2022, according to Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 report released on Thursday.

The report “The killing fields: no justice for Pakistan’s murdered journalists” was launched ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which falls on November 2.

The research was framed in the context of the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which Pakistan had first endorsed in October 2013 and later committed to implementing in the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021.

According to the report, 53 Pakistani journalists were killed between 2012 and 2022 but the perpetrators were convicted in only two out of these 53 cases.

Says 53 journalists killed between 2012 and 2022 but the perpetrators were convicted in only two cases

In the remaining 96pc of the cases, the criminal justice system failed to deliver justice for the slain journalists and their bereaved families.

“This open-ended impunity for crimes against journalists and media in Pakistan is taking an ugliest shape and latest killing of under-threat journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya reminds us how stronger perpetrators of crime and press freedom predators are getting,” Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of Freedom Network, reacted to the report findings.

The report stated that “due to poor investigation, the police fail to produce challans in many cases, killing the chances of justice at an early stage of the legal system” and “due to the poor quality of prosecution, most cases never complete the trial process in the courts.”

Mr Khattak said the report’s findings indicated that even though Pakistan legislated exclusively on the safety of journalists at the federal level and in Sindh province, the journalists remained unsafe.

The report is based on data collected from the families of the journalists killed as well as from their news colleagues, local press clubs and unions of journalists.

Most dangerous regions

Of the 53 journalists murdered for their work in Pakistan between 2012 and 2022, the highest fatalities were in Sindh (16, or 30pc of the total) followed by Punjab (14, or 26pc of the total).

Worst enemies of journalists

Unidentified persons constituted the biggest suspected threat actor to journalists in Pakistan during 2012-2022 with 15 of the 53 journalists (or 28pc) murdered in the reporting period being targeted by them, according to the family members or colleagues of the victims.

Organised crime and militant groups were the second and third most suspected perpetrators of journalist killings, respectively.

Deadly inaction

According to available data, more than half of the journalists apparently did not inform their media employers, press club, union or local authorities about any threats. Less than 10pc of all journalists who received death threats before being murdered informed their media employers, press club, union or the local authorities. Even in cases where advance warning was available, the system and relevant stakeholders were unable to prevent the murders.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2022

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