ST. LOUIS: The United States’ journalists joined hands with Pakistani doctors here Saturday in a walk followed by a talk to condemn the killing of Saleem Shahzad, Pakistani investigative reporter, and called for the arrest of killers who often go unpunished. An award was also announced in the memory of a slain journalist, Hayatullah Khan, and posthumously granted to Saleem Shahzad and Wali Khan Babar by an influential US Senator Bob Casey who attended one of the two events held in this respect.
Umar Cheema, The News investigative journalist who was brutalised in September last year, was also granted two honors separately by the Allama Iqbal Medical College Alumnis Association in North America (AIMCAANA) and Association of Pakistani Physicians for Justice and Democracy (APPJD).
Both organisations are the components of the Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA) that held its annual convention where these events took place. The US Senator Bob Casey, chairman of sub-committee on Foreign Relations (South Asia), distributed awards acknowledging the sacrifices Pakistani journalists rendered while discharging their duty.
In the meanwhile, the idea of setting up a training programme in memory of Saleem Shahzad was discussed in a discussion organized by AIMCANNA, under which Pakistani journalists would be trained every year through US trainers.
The event ‘Dare to Speak’ organized by the AIMCAANA drew representation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Society of Professional Journalists, the editorial staff of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the biggest paper in Missouri State, Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship (AFPF) and Daniel Pearl Foundation (DPF).
A peaceful walk was organized with the protesting doctors and US journalists wearing black ribbons to condemn the ruthless killing of Saleem Shahzad allegedly at the hands of intelligence agents. The executive editor of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arnie Robbins, with his colleagues attended the event and sought suggestions on ways and means the US journalists can help their Pakistani colleagues in this time of crisis.
Bob Deitz, Director Asia of CPJ, spoke at length about the killing of journalists in Pakistan. He said more than 50 journalists have been killed since 1992 but in no case the culprits were brought to justice. Only one exception in this respect is the case of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal’s reporter, who was beheaded in Karachi in 2002.
Bob Deitz suggested to Pakistani physicians and the US journalists to keep highlighting the plight of journalists through meetings with the congressmen and senators of their areas in order to press Pakistani authorities into bringing the killers of Saleem Shahzad to justice.
Daniel Pearl’s parents couldn’t attend the event but they sent a message read in the programme where they expressed solidarity with the families of slain journalists and offered their all-out support in this time of crisis. Jonathan Friendly, the head of Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship that also administers the Daniel Pearl Fellowship, specially travelled to the place for ensuring attendance. Jonathan read the message of Pearl family and discussed the idea of setting up of a fund in memory of Saleem Shahazad to train Pakistani journalists. According to the proposed programme, as many as 30 Pakistani journalists would be trained every year in Pakistan and best among them would be selected as Daniel Pearl fellow to be further trained on six-month fellowship through induction in an American newsroom.
Umar Cheema of The News said Pakistani journalists were never exposed to this degree of fatal risk as today. He said that the rise of conflict and media run parallel as both started after 9/11. Cheema said the media is more vocal than before but is equally vulnerable to multiple threats.
Anwar Iqbal, reporter of a daily from Pakistan urged the world community to stand with the media of Pakistan. Another session by APPJD also shed light on the plight of journalists and perils they face discharging their duty. Sheher Bano, the daughter of slain Governor Salmaan Taseer and a famous columnist Kamran Shafi also spoke on the occasion apart from Senator Bob Casey. An award created in memory of tribal journalist Hayatullah Khan was posthumously granted to Saleem Shahzad and Wali Khan Babar. Wali Khan Babar was the first journalist killed this year in Karachi. Umar Cheema was also granted this award. The AIMCANNA also honored Cheema for upholding the tradition of independent journalism in Pakistan.