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KARACHI: Media and its stakeholders in Sindh have demanded a set of urgent initiatives to fast track the countering of impunity of crimes against journalists in the province to provide the journalists and media reprieve from an increasingly intimidating environment.

This demand was outlined in a meeting jointly hosted by the Sindh chapter of the Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC), the Karachi Press Club (KPC) and Freedom Network to mark May 3, the International Press Freedom Day. The chief guest at the meeting was Rasheed A Rizvi, the chairperson of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Other Media Professionals (CPJMP).

The widely attended meeting at the KPC deliberated in detail the challenges facing journalists, other media professionals and media houses in the province and discussed ways of countering them.

The meeting unanimously passed a four-point resolution aimed at addressing the problems of the media and its journalists in Sindh. These included the following:

  1. The Sindh provincial government must immediately provide all required resources to the CPJMP, established in November 2022 under the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act 2021. This includes office, staff and funds necessary to optimally operationalise CPJMP’s given mandate.

  2. The CPJMP should urgently start inviting applications for assistance from journalists of Sindh facing threats and intimidation related to their journalism work, as decided in the first meeting of the Commission, so that the law and commission can start benefitting the journalists’ community in Sindh.

  3. The Sindh CPJMP must make efforts to co-opt a working woman journalist as member of the Commission to make it gender affirmative relating to the province’s journalists’ community.

  4. The larger community of supporters of media freedoms and journalists of Pakistan, including media development organizations, human rights defenders, academia, journalists’ unions and press clubs, demand Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to fulfil the promise he made in Islamabad in December 2022 to formally operationalise the Federal Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021, by urgently notifying the federal safety commission for journalists.

“We can’t effectively defend journalists and other media practitioners of Sindh province against threats to them without optimally re-sourcing the Commission,” Chairperson CPJMP Rasheed A Rizvi said at the meeting. He pledged to continue working to make this happen with the support of the journalists’ community and civil society.

Freedom Network Executive Director Iqbal Khattak said the whole journalists’ community of Sindh had tirelessly advocated for the provincial safety law and the commission and now deserved to benefit from these safety mechanisms to effectively counter the impunity of crimes against journalists in Sindh.

International Media Support (IMS) country representative Adnan Rehmat presented some sobering statistics of crimes against journalists of Sindh. He at least 167 journalists and other media practitioners had been killed in Pakistan since 2000 of which 36 cases were documented in Sindh. Of those murdered in Sindh, 33 were target killed (92%), 27 were shot dead (75%) while six were abducted and tortured (including one beheaded) to death (17%).

Of the 36 journalists killed in Sindh, 22 worked for print media (61%), 12 worked for TV media (33%), two worked as freelancers (5%), three were camerapersons (8%), 23 worked as reporters (64%), four worked in editorial positions (11%) and two served as bureau chiefs (5%). The most dangerous places for journalists in Sindh were also identified: 13 journalists were killed in Karachi (36%), six in Khairpur (17%) and two each in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Dadu (5% each).

Rehmat said that even the enactment of the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act in August 2021, crimes against journalists and other media practitioners targeted in Sindh continued as at least 28 cases of violations have been documented since then. These include three journalists killed, eight attacked and injured, four kidnapped, four arrested and legal cases filed against nine journalists.

Speaking on the occasion, CPJMP members Fahim Siddiqui and Dr Jabbar Khattak, media law expert Muhammad Aftab Alam, and other journalists including KPC President Saeed Sarbazi, KPC Secretary Shoaib Ahmed, Sheher Bano, Imdad Soomro, Aamir Latif and Wajid Ali Syed, among others, demanded an immediate end to harassment, intimidation and attacks against journalists in both Karachi and interior Sindh, better support of women journalists, greater unity among the ranks of journalists community, and enhanced support from the Sindh government to combat impunity of crimes against journalists in the province.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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