IFJ and SAMSN call on Pakistan Prime Minister to end culture of impunity

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South Asian Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) have joined the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in marking November 2 as a National Day of Action Against Impunity in Pakistan. Sunday, which also marks the first UN International Day to End Impunity of Crimes Against Journalists, the IFJ and SAMSN have written to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, calling on him to recognize the day in Pakistan and to make concerted efforts to bring to an end to the country’s entrenched culture of impunity for journalist killings.

This year, 13 journalists and media workers have been killed in Pakistan and many more threatened, intimidated and attacked. According to SAMSN, Pakistan is fast becoming the deadliest country for journalists, leading the world in killings this year – ahead of Iraq and Syria.

The SAMSN/IFJ letter outlines how “over the past decade, Pakistan has consistently been ranked one of the most dangerous places on the planet to practice journalism. Nearly 60 journalists have been killed in the last six years and more than 100 since 2000. However, murder is not the only form of impunity in Pakistan. Threats against journalists run rife across the country. There have been a number of threatening calls made to notable journalists, including PFUJ Lahore-based President Rana M. Azeem”.

“The Pakistan State and its justice system has consistently failed to provide protection or justice to the journalists and their families though in one lone case they have managed to identify and convict the killers of Wali Khan Babar, whole attackers were identified and convicted but who still remain at large, yet to be apprehended. This situation must change and urgent steps are needed by the Government, the media sector and the civil society to reverse this tide.”

The joint letter, also signed by leading Pakistani journalists and activists, calls on the Pakistan Prime Minister to respond to a list of eight recommendations: 

  1. The urgent appointment of full-time federal and provincial special prosecutors dedicated to investigation cases of attacks against journalists as and when they happen and pursuing their cases in the courts to provide them justice. This should be institutionally underpinned by allocation of offices, dedicated staff and necessary budgets for the prosecutors.

  2. Investigation into the cases of all journalists killed in Pakistan since 2000 and pursuit in the courts of their relevant provinces – to provide long-awaited justice to their families.

  3. The families of the targeted journalists be awarded appropriate compensation and financial assistance to minimise their miseries.

  4. Passage of a law on media safety, in consultations with working journalists and their representatives, which provides for mandating institutional measures and protections, including by employers, to journalism practitioners, support for investigations against attackers and their prosecution, and uniform compensation packages for families of the deceases, as well as medical and legal aid.

  5. Nomination of a full-time focal person to represent the Federal Government on the issue of journalist safety to engagement with the Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS), an independent multi-stakeholders alliance of media, civil society and parliament working to promote a safer environment for journalists and media workers.

  6. Reforming the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law, which governs the independent broadcast sector of the country which employs over 16,000 journalists and nearly ten times as many non-journalist workers, to encourage adoption of safety protocols that discourage unnecessary risk taking that bring danger to journalists.

  7. Declare that November 2 will be officially marked and observed every year as the ‘National Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ to coincide with the declaration by the UN to observe November 2 as the ‘UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’.

  8. It is recommended that journalists working in vibrant areas to provided safety kits so that they could safely perform their duties. This has already been promised by the Information Ministry but yet to be materialised.

 “The growing list of journalists been attacked and killed in Pakistan for their work, without an official policy declaring zero tolerance against this practice and outlining a proactive mechanism to combat impunity, is a stark negation of the rights to freedom of expression, access of information and safety of individuals, enshrined in the Pakistani Constitution and promised to all citizens and journalists.”

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “The astounding number of journalist killings this year in Pakistan is a shocking and tragic testament of the reality facing media workers in Pakistan. Each time a journalists’ life is lost, press freedom is weakened and this is further exacerbated when the perpetrators go unpunished.”

“This day is reminding Pakistan and the world that journalists do matter. They have families who love them; they are mums and dads, ordinary people. But for every reporter threatened, for every life extinguished, democracy also suffers the ultimate price.”

Read more on the IFJ impunity campaign here.

The following signed the letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Afghan Independent Journalists Association

Adnan Rehmet, International Media Support, Pakistan

Bangladesh Manobadhikar Songbadik Forum

Delhi Union of Journalists, India

Federation of Nepalese Journalists

Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka

Freedom Network, Pakistan

Indian Journalists Union

Journalists Association of Bhutan

Open Society Foundation

National Union of Journalists, India

National Union of Journalists, Nepal

Nepal Press Union

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists

Sancharika Samuha, Nepal

Shahzad Admad, Bytes for All

Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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