EDITORIAL: Media persons all across this country face a wide range of dangers, including intimidation, assault, abduction and murder. Most at risk from both state and non-state actors are reporters in the militant-infested areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Just last month, a respected Landi Kotal journalist, Khalil Jibran, working for some local dailies and a Pashto TV channel was shot dead by unknown assailants - believed to be activists of a militant outfit. The matter did not end there. His two teenage children now have complained that the family’s only source of income, a snooker club, has been torched by the same suspects who killed their father.

Scared for their family’s lives they have appealed to federal government as well as provincial government to investigate the incident, move them to a safe place, and provide adequate compensation for the loss of their commercial property - a reasonable ask.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Network, a non-governmental organisation, in its recent report entitled “News Tribes of Northwest - Saving Journalists in Pakistan’s Tribal Districts” says space for media practitioners in the tribal districts of KP has shrunk drastically since the resurgence of the so-called Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Focused on two issues, the state of freedom of expression and safety of journalists, the report goes on to note that “not much has changed on both counts” after the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ merger with KP. The mindset left behind by the defunct colonial era FCR (frontier crimes regulations) still prevails.

Reporters have to contend with tribal traditions, official interference – there has been an undeclared official ban even on coverage of a citizens’ movement for fundamental rights – as well as tribal lashkars. Any of them can expel a journalist or impose a fine if they don’t like what is being reported.

Many of the 50 journalists interviewed said they do not take risks to probe or push for information, and that “by now we are all clear about what our limits are”. One or the other party in the conflict annoyed with journalists wants to fix them; with the result that self-censorship is rampant in the tribal districts.

Speaking at unveiling of the present report, advisor to the KP Chief Minister on information, Muhammad Ali Saif, announced that a bill would soon be tabled in the provincial assembly to combat impunity for the crimes against media persons, which is an important step in the right direction. That alone, though, will not deter powerful elements from attacking journalists.

A sustained campaign by various media bodies, rights organisations and other civil society groups is also needed to foster a protective environment for journalists working in different parts of the country, including the conflict-ridden areas.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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KU Jul 07, 2024 11:48am
The article left out journalist persecuted n prosecuted by govts, or the ones who had to take refuge in other countries to save themselves.
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