The abduction and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 provided a horrific snapshot to the world of the dangers journalists face whilst reporting in Pakistan. However, while Pearl’s death made international headlines, Pakistani journalists face the harrows of life and death everyday barely noticed.
To address the sickening crisis facing the Pakistan media, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), have released A State of Denial: The Crisis of Press Freedom and Journalist Safety in Pakistan.
This report contains the findings from a joint international media mission from February 22 to 25, 2007. Representatives of the IFJ, the PFUJ, the National Union of Journalists of UK and Ireland, Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and an editor from the Indian media, visited Pakistan as part of a joint mission to investigate the crisis facing the media.
“From the mission’s findings, we are calling for immediate local and international action to address this terrible crisis,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren. “Reporting in Pakistan is now more dangerous than ever. Urgent action is essential to overturn the dangerous climate for journalists and to uphold press freedom and the freedom of expression in the country.”
Findings from the report reveal the increasing horror faced by Pakistani journalists, in which media restrictions, government intervention, low wages, and even violence and murder are strangling press freedom.
Nineteen journalists are believed to have been killed since 2000, with four murdered in the last year. And not only journalists, but also their families are paying an untenable price for press freedom, with two cases of the brothers of journalists murdered to send a harrowing message.
A lack of justice is creating a dangerous culture of impunity. Of the 19 cases, only Pearl’s murderers have been convicted.
“Urgent action including finding and convicting these journalist killers, implementing the legally binding wage board decisions, and the development of a culture of safety and security for journalists are imperative to uphold the IFJ motto: There can be no press freedom if journalists exist in conditions of corruption, poverty or fear,” said Warren.
“Journalists, through their collective, the PFUJ, have been leading a brave struggle against impossible odds,” Warren said.
“Not only are Pakistani journalists threatened by terrorists and rebel militants, but also those who ought to be protecting them: their own Government and media companies.”
Recommendations released in the report include:
• Immediate provision of essential safety items such as bullet-proof jackets and war insurance to journalists by the Pakistan Government and media employers as well as professional training for safety and conflict reporting.
• Wage increases to be honoured in line with the legal wage board process, and labour law reform in Pakistan, particularly ensuring media employers issue proper contracts of employment to journalists as far too many have been exploited and abused in its absence.
• The international community of media workers to recognise and assist the PFUJ in their efforts to protect the independence and security of journalism in Pakistan. This includes financial and practical support, monitoring media rights violations, and international pressure for authorities and employers to respect the rights of Pakistan journalists.
For more information contact:
President, International Federation of Journalists
Tel: +61 411 757 668
President, National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland)
Tel: +44 121 234 5286
Bureau Chief (Peshawar), Daily Times (Pakistan)
Tel: + 92 91 526 1490