‘Surviving the Story’ highlights plight of Pakistani journalists

Field study report and documentary launched

Zubair Qureshi

The government should partner with media organizations to encourage and institutionalize life and health insurances for journalists, this has emerged as a key recommendation of the Field Study Report and the Documentary ‘Surviving the Story’, launched here at National Press Club (NPC).
The report and the documentary are jointly produced by Communications Research Strategies (CRS) and JournalismPakistan.com. ‘Surviving the Story’ highlights the plight of Pakistani journalists and their families in the wake of serious financial, security and professional challenges faced by them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been the area of focus for this report and documentary as it has the highest number of cases of journalists losing their lives or threatened to leave their area. It urges all the stakeholders including professional journalists, press clubs, unions, government, media owners, civil society and international bodies to come together for streamlining media practices in Pakistan by redressing the foremost issue of financial security that the journalist community in Pakistan faces. ‘Surviving the Story’ has documented the cases of the families of five journalists killed by miscreants and of five other who had to leave after being threatened by the militants. Those who laid their lives in the line of duty are Saleem Tahir (D.I.Khan) , Musa Khankhel (Swat), Azmat Ali Bangash (Peshawar), Fazal Wahab (Swat) and Hayatullah Khan (North Waziristan). The families of these slain journalists received either little or no compensation. The other five journalists came under deadly attacks and were forced to relocate to safer areas to protect themselves and their families are Anwar Shakir (South Waziristan), Adnan Bhitani (Tank), Abu Zar Afridi (Khyber Agency), Haji Pajir Gul (North Waziristan) and Sahibzada Bahauddin (Bajaur Agency) had to relocate to safer areas to protect themselves and their families.
Chairman Journalist Panel and former President National Press Club, Farooq Faisal while speaking at the occasion said the report and the documentary ‘Surviving the Story’ will be a good addition to the Resource Centre at the National Press club, established to help build professional capacity of the journalists. He pointed out that journalists had not forgotten their colleagues who had lost their lives and referred to a recent addition of a Monument at NPC to honor them. He said documenting the issues related to the wider question of journalists’ security and safety was an important step for continuing to work for journalist’s rights.
“It is painful when a journalist becomes a story,” said Aniq Zafar, Chief Executive Officer of CRS while addressing the launching ceremony, adding that “it is even painful to see that anybody hardly cares.” Zafar said some progress has been made by training journalists on physical safety but the economic aspect remains far from hitting the spotlight. “There is no mechanism of disbursement of funds available with relevant departments and organisations, when it comes to the families of those journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of reporting truth”.
‘Surviving the Story’ aims to bring all key stakeholders together to highlight the economic aspect of journalists’ security particularly after the event of death and displacement. In the light of report, the key recommendations would be put forth to policymakers, he said.
Myra Imran the researcher of the study ‘Surviving the Story’ cited relevant findings of credible journalist bodies to note that Pakistan is fourth among deadliest countries in the world after Mexico, the Philippines and Iraq. She said that 2,297 journalists were killed worldwide including 115 in Pakistan since 1990. As many as 17 journalists were injured from December 2016 to February 2017 in various incidents while eight received verbal death threats. She also shared details from the report. She stressed that any mechanisms to be developed to support families of the martyred journalists had to factor in the gender aspect. Access to females in the families of martyred journalists was a major challenge and it effects how any assistance fails to reach the deserving.

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