Relatives carry the coffin of slain Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad during his funeral in Karachi on June 1, 2011. Over 70 journalists were killed in Pakistan in the last decade.—AFP (File Photo)

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday voiced concern at reports of a number of journalists facing threats in recent weeks and asked the authorities to ensure that threats to journalists end and that risks associated with practising journalism in general are eliminated.

A statement issued by the commission reads: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is alarmed at reports of threats received by journalists on account of their work. While it is not uncommon for journalists in Pakistan to live under a constant cloud of intimidation and violence, the perceptible increase in threats is manifested by over a dozen journalists killed in 2011, as others have been forced to go into hiding in their own country.

“Many have exercised self-censorship for the sake of safety and others have suffered for airing views that are unpopular in some quarters. A number of journalists have recently gone public about the threats they received from “anonymous callers.”

They have also mentioned cell phone numbers of the callers but little has been done to identify or prosecute these people. A government committed to media freedom must neither remain a spectator in the circumstances nor wait to be implored into action. HRCP wants to remind the authorities that for two years now Pakistan has held the dubious distinction of being one of the deadliest countries for journalists.

The HRCP reiterates that those making threats and perpetrating violence against journalists are encouraged by the fact that out of over 70 journalists killed in Pakistan in the last decade the perpetrators have been brought to justice in only one case.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, HRCP urges all state institutions to acknowledge the dangers facing journalists, identify and prosecute those threatening media persons on account of their work and ensure that journalism does not remain such a dangerous profession in Pakistan. HRCP also supports the journalists facing threats and lauds their courageous decision to make the threats against them public.

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