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October 30, 2020

High on impunity

Editorial

 
October 30, 2020

The Global Impunity Index published by the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Pakistan at 9th position on the list of countries where journalists are killed most often. The report by the CPJ notes that 15 journalists have been murdered during the last decade from September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2020 in the country. The report notes quite correctly that weak institutions or lack of political will and inabilities or deficiencies in the legal system allow those who have killed journalists to get away with their crimes. Certainly, this is true in Pakistan. Almost none of the journalists killed over the last decade has received the justice they deserve. Indeed, the situation worsened when the Sindh High Court overturned the conviction of one of the four men who had been sentenced to death for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl. The CPJ has noted that even after a person has been convicted and found guilty of murdering a journalist, the situation can change.

Pakistan's journalists are also aware, as the report notes, of other kinds of harassment. The increase in disappearances in the country is something that many of us know about, and which figures frequently on social media. The government of Pakistan needs to think not only about ethics, morality and promises made during the PTI's election campaign, but also of its image in the global community. The CPJ report does not present a very enlightened picture. It suggests that Pakistani journalists are under threat on the basis of the work they perform. The index is based on population per country and puts on the list only those journalists who have been killed in the line of duty and for carrying out their work rather than for other reasons, such as conflict. The fact that this is so common in Pakistan is alarming. We all know that journalism, in all forms, is becoming an increasingly hazardous profession in the country. There are journalists in most major cities who could testify to this.

The media professionals in the country have already protested the harassment and enforced disappearance of journalists. The government needs to recognise the need to remove itself from the CPJ impunity list so that it can return to the fold of truly democratic and humane countries where journalists are respected and not forced to gag themselves just to survive.