The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is calling for journalists’ organisations from around the world to join in an International Day of Action this Friday June 15, to protest the grave situation threatening the safety of journalists and freedom of expression in Pakistan.
This year Pakistan’s already fragile media industry has been dealt mounting blows: the death of a journalist; ongoing death threats towards media workers and members of the IFJ’s affiliate in Pakistan, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ); and persistent interference by government bodies such as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the day of action marks one year since the body of missing tribal region journalist Hayatullah Khan was found. His brutal disappearance and subsequent murder highlighted the dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan, especially in the tribal regions.
“We urge the international media community to put pressure on the Pakistan government, to deliver justice to the journalists whose murders and attacks have remained unsolved over the years”, Park said.
“President Musharraf and his government must end the culture of impunity and deliver a safe working environment for all Pakistan media personnel, who to this day work in fear for their lives. Journalists in the tribal regions are the most vulnerable. Many are now leaving journalism in the face of the dire threats they and their families face,” she said.
This Friday, the IFJ is urging all its affiliate organisations worldwide to hold demonstrations at their local Pakistan Embassy, and to personally deliver a letter to the Pakistan government raising the issues of press freedom and journalist safety.
Several incidents in the last few weeks emphasise the serious dangers and intimidation tactics aimed at Pakistan’s media.
• A journalist killed in a bomb blast on June 2. Dr. Noor Hakim Khan, a reporter for the daily Pakistan and vice-president of the Tribal Union of Journalists, was one of five men killed when a targeted bomb exploded on their vehicle in the northwestern Bajaur tribal agency. He is the fourth media worker to be killed in the last three years in this dangerous conflict area.
• Journalists in tribal regions resigning in fear of their lives. It has also been reported that a journalist in these regions named Hadayatullah was abducted only a week ago. Another journalist, Nasrullah Afredi has been subject to threats from extremist group Lashkar-e-Islami. Due to these ongoing threats on them and their families to silence their work, journalists are quitting their profession as the last resort.
• Death threats issued to 12 journalists on May 22 by the Mohajir Rabita Council (MRC), a radical group known to be affiliated with the Mottahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – a political party aligned with the Pakistan government. Those threatened include several senior journalists as well as Mazhar Abbas, secretary-general of the PFUJ. A week later, three journalists including Abbas discovered live bullets wrapped in envelopes in their car in Karachi, with representatives of the MRC again believed to be responsible. The IFJ have been informed that these journalists are still gravely concerned for their safety and welfare.
• Introduction of media curbs by the Pakistan government on June 4. The controversial Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Body (PEMRA) was granted extra powers by the National Assembly of Pakistan. During the parliamentary debate for these changes, journalists were barred from covering the session. Pakistan’s media has continually criticised PEMRA for its acts of interference, including suspending broadcasts of major TV channels like Aaj TV and Geo TV. Just hours before the amended PEMRA ordinance was decreed, both channels were blacked out – Aaj TV almost nationwide and Geo TV in the cities of Lahore and Islamabad. Due to nationwide and international protests from journalists and human rights bodies, the Pakistan government announced the withdrawal of the amended ordinance, to be replaced instead a self-regulatory code of conduct by broadcasters.
The IFJ, the organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries, urges journalists to take action and support this campaign to stop the bloodshed and fear threatening Pakistani journalists.
If you wish to partake in this International Day of Action on Friday June 15, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries