Sunday, January 9, 2011

PAKISTAN: Journalist Killings Reflect Sorry State of Media — PFUJ

PAKISTAN: Journalist Killings Reflect Sorry State of Media — PFUJ

Expressing grave concern over killing of two media persons in a short span of 24 hours, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has urged the government to come to the rescue of journalists as the situation get worse in the southwestern province of Balochistan and Pakhtoonkhwa, and it is getting more difficult for media persons to perform their duties without fear.

On Apr. 18, Samaa TV cameraman Malik Arif was killed with nine other people in an attack on a hospital in Balochistan. Less than 24 hours later, veteran reporter Azmat Ali Bangash was among more than 40 people killed in two blasts in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.

Journalists and media persons' lives are at stake, and time has come that all stake holders and the government take measures for safety and protection of media persons. Referring to Saturday's incident at Kohat in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province), the PFUJ said that Azmit Ali, a correspondent of Samaa for Orakzai Agency was among those killed in the incident, and according to initial reports, blasts took place near the internally displaced people's (IDP) camp Kacha Paka. The first was a suicide blast that occurred at a place where food was being distributed among the people and hence, a large number of people were present there.

The second blast, according to reports, occurred due to a planted bomb. Twenty one bodies have been identified. The injured were taken to different hospitals. This camp was for the Orakzai Agency IDPs who were camping here owing to operations launched by the Pakistani Army in the locality.

Azamat Ali Bangash, son of Ali Sarwar Bangash, lost his life while preparing packages for the displaced persons. Azmat had joined the profession in 1998, and served in various newspapers. He also served in Express TV, Aaj TV and was presentely working with APP, PTV and Samaa TV. He was 54 and leaves behind a a six-year-old son, Ali Hybder, and daughters three-year-old and one-year-old Alyia, and his wife.

He was a hardworking and professional journalist who was reporting security forces operation against militants in Hangu district and Orakzai agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwest Pakistan. He was on the hit-list of Taliban. He contributed invaluable news stories. He broke the news about the death of most wanted Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, the man responsible for killing hundreds of innocent civilians and security forces personnel through his brutal acts of terrorism. After receiving death threats, he had left Hangu district and settled in Peshawar and Islamabad and continued reporting from there.

He exposed atrocities of militants through his reporting, including airing video footages of militants slaughtering an FC constable in Orakzai and new Talian Chief Mulla Toofan flogging people.

Expressing concern and sorrow over this incident, the PFUJ pointed out that the killings and injuries to media persons warrant government attention and it had become imperative that while they are performing assignments in such a terrible and odd environment, they should be provided training and protection. Although such incidents have become the order of the day, the media owners are so callous and indifferent that they even do not move on such tragic incidents.

The PFUJ further pointed out that in terms of numbers of journalist killings in Pakistan in 2009, the situation was not different from Iraq. Journalists in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa northwest regions bordering Afghanistan and in Balochistan went through a most challenging situation. The number of working media persons in Bajour fell from more than 20 to less than 10 over the past year.

In a hostile and harsh environment, the media persons are forced to perform their duties by media owners, and in case of death they play role of a silent spectator, which is a most condemnable act. The PFUJ is of the view that such media owners be prosecuted on charge of 'Qatl-i-amad' (willful and intentional killing) as envisaged by law.

"The media persons are neither provided health insurance, life insurance nor any other sort of protective measures, like security jackets are provided whereas petty cameras, digital satellite News Gathering (DSNG), wagons are insured by media owners.

These hards facts reflect the mindset of media owners and value of human life in the eyes of media owners," the PFUJ regretted.

Critics also believe that the media industry and media tycoons are building their empires on the blood of working journalists, and for extortion of money. They say that these companies use all means without caring for any law, rules and regulations and they never abide by their legal obligations for providing economic rights and protection to their workers who are being forced to work under most hostile and torture ridden environments.

The media persons are also forced to work under low wages, on contract basis, without job security, job descriptions, and overwhelming persons are forced to work even without single penny in mofssals areas rather they were forced to pay handsome money for acquiring "correspondent-ship" from their channels and newspapers, which in turn is playing havoc in society, yet genuine media persons and professionals are undermined before society.

The PFUJ urged the Supreme court of Pakistan to take 'suo motu' (Latin legal term meaning 'on its own motion') notice of open exploitation of workers by media owners who were playing havoc with societal norms, and are responsible for indirect killing of media persons by sending them to hostile environment without proper security measures. (Ashfaq Yusufzai)

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