Enduring threat

Published May 25, 2024

THE death this week of journalist Nasrullah Gadani, who succumbed to injuries after being attacked by gunmen, is yet another reminder of the perilous state of journalism in Pakistan. The country remains one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. Ranked 152 out of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders and 11th on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Global Impunity Index, our record on press freedom and journalist safety is appalling. This month alone, three other journalists were murdered: Mehar Ashfaq Siyal was gunned down in Punjab, and Muhammad Siddique Mengal was killed by a bomb in Balochistan, while Kamran Dawar, a citizen journalist, was shot dead in KP. The impunity with which these crimes are committed reflects a persistent failure of the state to protect journalists. Sindh, where Gadani was attacked, is particularly hazardous. According to Freedom Network, Sindh accounted for 33pc of the total number of violations against media in Pakistan from May 2023 to March 2024. This includes murders, attacks, injuries, kidnappings, threats, and legal cases. The regional safety commission, established under the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Practitioners Act, 2021, remains ineffective due to lack of resources, office space, and staff.

The government’s inaction perpetuates a cycle of bloodshed and impunity. To break this cycle, it must take decisive steps. This includes fully activating regional safety commissions with adequate resources, ensuring prompt and transparent investigations into attacks on journalists, and prosecuting those responsible. Capacity building for journalists, particularly in safety protocols, and fostering partnerships between journalists and lawyers for legal recourse are crucial. Until these measures are implemented, Pakistani journalists will continue to work under the shadow of fear, and the state will remain complicit in the erosion of press freedom. The protection of journalists is not simply a legal obligation; it is also a moral imperative. It is high time Pakistan took this responsibility seriously.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2024

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