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November 2, 2015

Justice for journalists

Editorial

November 2, 2015

Today, the world comes together to reaffirm its commitment to ensuring the safety of journalists throughout the world. The United Nations marks November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The day serves to remind us of unresolved crimes against journalists. The day draws attention to unsolved cases where violence has been used against journalists who are simply exercising their freedom of expression and duty of reporting. In the past decade, over 700 journalists have been killed around the world merely for doing their job. Recent years have been worse, with 2012 and 2013 ranking amongst the most brutal years for journalists. Only one in ten of cases of violence against journalists has yielded a conviction. In the larger context of the world, Pakistan ranks as the fifth worst country in the world in terms of the number of unresolved cases of violence against journalists. There are still at least 22 such cases open in Pakistan.
Last year, the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) expressed the hope that the conviction of six people responsible for the assassination of Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar would mark a turning point for Pakistan’s journalists. However, the number of open cases of violence against journalists in Pakistan has only increased in the last year. New cases of violence against journalists have occurred amidst the government’s failure to implement its commitment to protect journalists in the line of duty. Three journalists were killed last year while a number of journalists, including news anchor Hamid Mir, survived attacks on their lives. Journalists continue to report threats from a number of sources – political parties, criminal groups, local mafias, terrorists and state security agencies. This means that Pakistan is in fifth place behind Somalia, Iraq, Syria and the Philippines in the index for countries where journalists are killed and the killers go free. Many of the countries on the list

include functioning democracies, including the Philippines, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and India. Over 96 journalist murders are still unsolved in these countries, breaking the myth that democracies are safer places for journalists because they respect freedom of speech. The UN has often called on states to take greater steps to protect journalists amidst armed conflict but also where there is no such conflict. A society where journalists continue to be silenced with impunity is a society that is afraid of asking critical questions. Pakistan must reaffirm its commitment to the safety of journalists by solving the unresolved murders of journalists in the country. The killers of journalists cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

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