Pakistan has seen an alarming rise in attacks on journalists. These attacks range from the active – people shooting at reporters for what they write – to the more passive – making accusations that put reporters’ lives at risk. Whatever the methods, the culprits are the same: People who are unable to defend their positions with words take up the tools of violence to silence those who try to bring the truth to the people.
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Today’s The News recognizes this growing threat in its editorial, “Endangered.”
The attacks on journalists in various parts of the country continue unabated. Most recently one has been shot dead in Quetta, another in Khairpur. The motives are mysterious. In Quetta a sectarian dimension is possible. In Khairpur we can assume enmity of some kind. Such incidents have taken place before. The life of professional media persons is becoming increasingly unsafe. Professional bodies of journalists have recently suggested insurance policies for journalists as a bid to ensure some security. This is a good move, but insufficient. Authorities as well as the publishers need to do more to ensure safety and to react with greater alacrity to assaults on those performing professional duties. The perpetrators must be punished under the relevant laws. According to international reports Pakistan is becoming one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the field. We have had cases of cameramen and reporters injured in blasts or killed while covering conflict in the northern parts of the country. Others have been targeted because their reports have displeased powerful individuals.
The question is precisely what measures can be taken. The situation is relatively new one for Pakistan. Dangers of the kind we see now have not existed before. It is also a fact that working media people have faced harassment and intimidation from persons in official places. This sets an alarming precedent and encourages others to resort to similar audacious acts of violence. Journalists have a special role in society. Indeed they have revolutionised the lives of people everywhere by bringing news to the doorstep and to the living room on a daily, indeed, on an hourly basis. Today, people are far better informed than has ever been the case before. This has been even more true since the advent of the TV channels. The government needs to take a lead in the matter and ensure that all possible is done to make sure that media professionals are able to perform their vital social duties freely and safely. This task cannot be delayed any longer.
Attacks on journalists are an attack on Pakistan. Those who carry out or encourage these attacks should be held accountable accordingly.