Journalist’s murder

Published June 21, 2024

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle was ambushed in Landi Kotal, Khyber district, and the journalist was sprayed with bullets. While no group has as yet claimed responsibility for this dastardly crime, as per the PFUJ, Jibran had been facing threats from terrorists. The area in which he operated is known for militant activity. The journalist was active in the local press club as well as social work. There appears to have been an uptick in violence against media persons in recent months. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, four media personnel were killed in May alone, while several others faced different forms of violence. The CPJ says 64 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992 in connection with their work; other counts put the number closer to 100. Pakistan ranked 11th on the CPJ’s Global Impunity Index,indicating the sad fact that those who kill or harm journalists in this country rarely get caught.

There is a wide variety of actors who do not want journalists reporting on what they do. They range from militants, criminal gangs and local ‘influentials’ to elements within the state apparatus that are not happy with those who ask too many questions, even if this is in the public and national interest. Along with threats and deadly violence, members of the media fraternity also face ‘lawfare’, as cases are instituted against them on flimsy grounds. Calls to create a safer environment for journalists have failed to move the state into taking substantive action in this regard. For example, the CPJ has called upon the prime minister to “stop this alarming rise in attacks against journalists, and end this cycle of impunity”. The fact is that malevolent actors — both state and non-state — know that they can get away with violence against journalists. This is what must change. The government needs to investigate the murder of Khalil Jibran and all other media personnel killed for their work, and bring the perpetrators to justice. If the media is cowed into silence by violent forces, who will raise a voice for the voiceless, and ask the uncomfortable questions that need to be asked? To preserve the freedom of expression, the state needs to ensure a violence-free atmosphere for the media.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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