Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pak PM's Press Freedom Commitment: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Rabin Man Shakya

I was still with The Rising Nepal working at the night desk in 2002 when Daniel Pearl, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped and later murdered by the Islamofascists in Pakistan. I still remember the Pearl kidnapping and murder received a lot of news coverage in the Rising Nepal, albeit the stories were from the international wire services: AP and AFP.

Pearl's kidnapping and murder along with killings of many other journalists has made Pakistan a notorious and dangerous country for the journalists. Later on, some feature films as well as documentaries were made based on Pearl's journalistic activities, kidnapping and murder. Not long ago, coincidentally, I happened to watch "A Mighty Heart" a movie based on Mariane Pearl's (Daniel's widow) best-selling memoir. Angelina Jolie played the role of Mariane whereas Daniel's role was performed by Dan Futterman.

Reporters in Pakistan are often beaten or intimidated, and in the vast majority of cases, their attackers are not prosecuted. In some cases, news organizationa believe that members of the Pakistani security or intelligence forces have been involved in the abuses. (The New York Times, March 20, 2014).

Therefore, when Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's Prime Minister promised recently to improve  journalists' safety and freedom to work, it was taken as the light at the end of the tunnel by media observers.

Meanwhile, according to Kati Morton, board member of  Committee to Protect Journalists, "Pakistan has been one of the world's most dangerous countries for the media for the last decade. At least 46 journalists have been killed, 24 of them murdered for the 'crime' of covering the intelligence service, Taliban, separatists in Baluchistan, or the criminal underworld. The result is a lagacy of self-censorship and fear among the Pakistan press; critical stories go unreported."

Reporting from Islamabad on March 23, 2014, AFP added: "A  Pakistani journalist who was shot dead in the southern port city of Karachi three years ago was posthumously honoured on Sunday with one of the country's top civilain awards."

AFP news story went on to say: "Wali Khan Babar, a reporter for the private Geo TV station was murdered on Jan 13, 2011 while returning home from work. Earlier this month, a Pakistani court convicted six men of murdering Babar in what is believed to be the first case convicting anyone for killing a journalist in the country."

Also, according to media campaign group Reporters Without Borders, last year (2013) seven journalists were killed doing their jobs in Pakistan, which was 158th out of 180 countries in its press freedom ranking.

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