Islamabad: Pakistan continues to be ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, as more than 140 journalists have been killed in the country since 2000, according to a report by Freedom Network.
This year’s report on impunity against journalists facing trial by law in Pakistan will cause much distress to all those who consider the existence of a strong and independent media essential to good governance and social progress, writes IA Rehman, journalist and human rights advocate, for Dawn.
The more significant findings of the report are that journalists working for print media are twice more likely to be targets of legal action than their colleagues in electronic media, and that the Sindh region was three times riskier for journalists than any other province or territory.
Most journalists (over one-third of them) are charged with offences under the Penal Code while another one-third are likely to be charged with terrorism, while some others may be tried under electronic crimes or defamation laws.
The most common allegation against journalists is ‘acting against state institutions’ or ‘defaming state institutions’. Other allegations can be ‘illegal possession of arms/explosives’, ‘drug-running’, ‘keeping proscribed literature’, or ‘harassing citizens’.
According to the report, in two-thirds of the cases in which probes were completed by the police, only half of them were declared fit for trial. Moreover, the trial in 60 percent of the cases was never concluded, leaving most journalists without a chance to prove their innocence. 10 out of the 17 cases never reached a conclusion and thus most of the journalists concerned did not receive justice at all.
This research leads to the conclusion that during 2018-2019, the law was used more often to harass working journalists with a view to preventing them from offering the people truthful accounts of happenings around them, writes Rehman.
Last year’s findings reported that there was 100 percent impunity for killers and zero percent justice for 33 murdered journalists.
Furthermore, media houses also face a crisis caused by a shrinking of their revenues, discrimination in the distribution of state-controlled advertisements, unlawful restrictions on the circulation of some newspapers in certain areas, and other insidious campaigns against the dissidents or vehicles of independent opinion.
Rehman further wrote that the traditions of civil discourse have been undermined to such an extent that the expression ‘the fourth estate’ itself has gone out of currency.
More than 15,000 journalists and support workers have been rendered jobless, and the process has picked up speed over the past few weeks.
Many more journalists have been compelled to accept unbearable cuts in their wages, thereby, causing a sharp decline and deterioration in their services and lifestyles both.
The article stated that a holistic view of the trials and tribulations of the media will clearly bring out the urgency of a full-scale debate in parliament on the need for a high-powered parliamentary commission to examine the media crisis in all of its dimensions, identify the causes and suggest both short-term and long-term remedies.
14 Nov 20/Saturday Source: zee5