Threats to journalists:
‘Need for Judicial Commission’, ‘Press Complaints Commission’ Urged
A high level Judicial Commission led by a senior judge of the Supreme Court should once for all decide the fate of illegal picking and killing of journalists, said speakers at a seminar on “Mortal threat to journalists: the price of writing truth in Pakistan” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.
Chairing the seminar, Shafqat Munir, senior journalist and Policy Advisor at SDPI, said both journalist community and intelligence agencies should adopt professional ethics to carryout their duties as per rule of law, standard legal practices and procedures. Lamenting over frequent killings and torture of journalists, he said the intelligence agencies should enhance their tolerance level and do not unilaterally declare journalists as agents of enemies rather they should expose any such unethical journalistic practice through a legal course with substantive evidences. He said that journalist should also adopt professional standards in writing stories to provide 70 percent safeguard for their protection by covering all shades and point of views in their stories. He said there is no excuse for torture or killing a citizen for speaking truth.
President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pervaiz Shaukat said that there is a dire need to form a Press Complaints Commission on permanent basis to handle any complaints about any unethical journalistic practices. He said since killing of Saleem Shahzad is a serious issue being 74th such incident in the sequence, we demand from the government, the Chief of Army Staff and the DG ISI to take this growing concern up at top level and intervene to stop such kinds of threats against journalists. He said we have set a 10 June deadline for the setting up of Commission after which we will undergo countrywide protests from 15th of June.
Pervaiz Shaukat highlighted the difficult working conditions and multiple threats faced by journalists. “ISI, IB or establishment are not the only source of worry for journalist’s community in Pakistan, but there are CIA, MI-6, MOSSAD, RAW, Taliban’s, ethnic militants bodies and drug lords that pressurize and threatens media. Our dilemma is that here camera and technical equipment is insured while journalists are not. So media owners should come forward for journalists’ protection and subsequent measures such as insurance and training of journalists for security reason may be organized, as it is their prime responsibility”.
It is a matter of concern that world journalists and human rights bodies have declared Pakistan a dangerous place for journalists and 35 journalists bodies that met in Beirut recently have decided to write a letter to Pakistani authorities on security threats to journalist in Pakistan and would support PFUJ in holding worldwide protest.
Giving a painful account of his recent abduction and torture by intelligence agencies, Umar Cheema, special investigative correspondent, The News, said that the conviction of speaking truth has become his strength now amid environment of constant physical and psychological harassment, sense of insecurity including life threats to journalists and their families, torture and killings. He said silence is not a solution but complicity and we have to do a collective struggle no matter at what cost.
Cheema reiterated that he was striving and struggling for a better Pakistan which is free of any exploitation and oppression of its citizens. He said that every institution of the country has to be transparent, accountable and must have some code of conduct and ethics. He said that he was treated and tortured by intelligence agencies as they have captured a high-value terrorist target. While condemning the mysterious killing of Saleem Shahzad, he deplored that it was a myth-breaking event for journalist community as they were not expecting any more killings of journalists.