As many as 105 journalists lost their lives in the line of duty in six years in Pakistan (2010-16) that has been regarded as one of the most dangerous countries for the media persons. The state and media industry need to come together to take steps on war-footing to ensure not only physical safety but the economic wellbeing of the journalists’ fraternity.
The participants of the first consultation meeting on threats to journalists in Pakistan identified the grey areas and offered remedies to deal with the situation. The event was organised by Communications Research Strategies (CRS) and JournalismPakistan.com where participants came up with valuable recommendations. Pakistan’s top journalists, communication experts and analysts showed up at the consultative session.
Sharing his views on the occasion, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) CRS Aniq Zafar highlighted the need to focus on the economic security of families of journalists killed or displaced in Pakistan. “Lot has been discussed about physical safety of journalists but the economic aspect remains far from hitting the spotlight. There is no mechanism of disbursement of funds available with relevant departments and unions.”
Elaborating on the objectives of the consultative meeting, the CEO said such initiatives aimed to bring all key stakeholders together. In the light of stakeholders’ guidance and input, the key recommendations would be put forth for policymakers, he said.
President National Press Club (NPC) Shakeel Anjum regretted to note that in the absence of any concrete mechanism, government treated journalists as ‘beggars’ when it came to financial assistance.
The NPC, he said, has given assistance to around 160 families of journalists since last year. “We are also starting endowment funds for journalists on our own. However, this is the responsibility of government as press clubs and unions have limitations,” he said.
Financial condition of around 107 journalists, died in recent years, is miserable, the president pointed adding it was high time for practical steps to ensure the economic safety of journalist and their families.
Chairman Journalist Panel, the governing body at NPC and Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), Afzal Butt, suggested that regulatory departments like PEMRA and ABC should be empowered to bind the print and electronic media to submit insurance certificates and regular salary payment certificates of their employees at the time of the renewal of their respective licences.
“The financial issues keep the families of deceased journalists from pursuing trial. This explains why the rate of punishments is very low. It should be the responsibility of government to pursue the legal case and investigations. Cases of deceased journalists should be treated on priority same as those of law enforcement agencies’ personnel.”