Crime against Media Personnel and Threats to Media Houses in Pakistan: A Journalistic Perspective.

Byline: Taimoor-Ul-Hassan, Liaqat Ali Malik and Jam Sajjad Hussain


Journalistic life has always been remained a subject of discussion in developing countries especially where democratic setups are flourishing. For instance, 2297 whistle blowers i.e., local journalists reporting on corruption, crime, human rights, politics, or warwere reported dead around the globe, including 115 journalists from Pakistan in the past two decades (Index, 2016). The gradual upward index of victimization of journalists over the past decade has enlisted Pakistan as the 4th dangerous country for journalists across the world, with 147th position at the World Press Freedom Index, even inferior to India, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Thailand and Palestine. Two thousand journalists have experienced harassment, kidnapping, arrest, detention, assault and injury since January 2000, as per statistics of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Civic Action Resources and the Freedom Network with an average of 125 cases every year for 16 years.

An estimate says 130 journalists were killed in Pakistan since 1947, and over 100 since 2000. The confounding average for the last 16 years says a journalist killed every 58 days (PFUJ, 2018).

International Federation of Journalists says more than 2297 journalists were killed in last two decades all over the world, 309 out of this total mark-up were killed in Iraq, 146 in Philippines, 120 in Mexico, 115 in Pakistan and 109 in Russia (IFJ, 2016). If media deny to government or pressure groups thencensorship is imposed against media (Norris, 2006). In this age of information, valid censorship is the right of people who can choose to not hear, read or know anything they do not like (The News, 2016).

The methods adopted by the state to hinder the free expression of media and to deter it to act as fourth pillar of state are corporate influence, government pressure, threat and political control (A tetka, 2013). There are places which are comparatively more dangerous like Baluchistan with 29 journalists killed since 2007, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the tribal areas in Pakistan with 27 journalists killed from 2003 to 2014 (IFJ, 2016).

Inexperiencedwith less or no journalistic background, once exposed to war/disaster reporting with both internal as well as external security concernsirked many stakeholderslike Taliban, Sectarian factions, political and military forcesdue to provocative media coverage. Both government and terrorist organizations wanted journalists to work as their informers. There is no presence of independent media in many districts of Baluchistan and KPK (Mir, 2016).According toInternational Federation of Journalists, 2,297 journalists have been killed in last 25 years, with Iraq ranking as the deadliest country since 1990. The report on Safety of Media Workers says since 2001, 47 media workers have been murdered, 164 injured, 88 assaulted, 21 abducted and 40 detained with conviction ratio of only two out of 384 cases of violence against media(Tribune, 2016).

Out of a total of 164 journalists injured and assaulted since 2001, 91 were in Sindh, 70 in Islamabad assaulted by supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) during the Dharna[protest sit-in] in 2014 (Pakistan Press Foundation, 2015).

The murder of a reporter SaleemShehzad as consequence of allegedly publishing the investigative news stories into purported links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan naval officials on Asia Times was associated by the representative for Human Rights Watch, Ali Dayan Hasan, that "credible sources" claimed Shahzadwas apprehended by sensitive agencies (Asia Times, 2011). So, media cannot be independent if operated with a gun to its head (Pakistan Media Watch, 2011) as establishment does not want the media to be as free as it can be (Knezivec, 2014).

In order to take protective measures,a number of national international organizations have paid special attention to safety of journalistsin conflict situations (LisoskyandHenrichsen, 2011); crime(s) against journalists in Mexico (Relly et al., 2013); typology of potential risks to media practitioners (Henrichsen, 2015); media men deaths and target killings of journalists (Cottle et al., 2016); potential threats to media personnel in Kenya (George,2016); challenges of safety of media workers in Nepal (Adhikary et al., 2016) andfreedom of expression of media, online and offline protection of journalists.

It is generally believed that the grim and ugly scenario emerged not only from the ashes of Twin Towers or from the war on terroralone rather there is a long history of violence since the media took its roots in the society. The study underhand may explore historical perspective of violence against journalists and peril continuously looming over their heads.

1.1 Significance of Study

With increase in blood pour of media persons on streets and at war zone alike, we need to understand the basic 'whys and wherefores' regarding increase in the attacks. This study peculiar in its nature may open new vistas of opportunity to pick up issues and challenges being faced by journalists and will no doubt guide towards reasonable conclusions and recommendations for the security and safety of media persons. This study may prove to be an effort to muster the data and analyze for future scholars to use and base upon for furtherance of their study on the subject.

1.2 Research Objectives

The major objectives were designed as:-

  1. To identify major threats to journalists and their families in Pakistan.

  2. To understand nature of threats and crime committed against journalists.

  3. To analyze infrastructure for the safety of journalists.

  4. To provide recommendations for the safety of journalists.

    1.3 Research Questions

    The besmirched situation gives rise to the research questions that:-

  5. What all are the probable threats to journalistsand media houses?

  6. What all are the probable reasons of threats to journalists and media houses?

  7. What are the workable solutions to secure the life of journalists and media houses?

  8. How to make this vital organ of state functional in the best interest of nation?

    1.4 Limitations of Study

    The study had inbuilt limitations which were as under:-

  9. No authentic and reliable data available yet in Pakistan.

  10. Lack of scholarly work on the topic resulting into reliance on press clippings.

  11. No central criminal and violence record committed against media is available with Police.

  12. The authenticity of record available has to be taken with a grain of salt.

  13. Literature Review

    Freedom of expression as well as receiving information is the right which not only be considered as basic rights rather also provides realization of many other rights. Hens et. al. (2013) stated that everyone has the right to...

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