Perilous profession: Deaths, threats mar(k) Press Freedom Day

Published: May 3, 2012

IFJ expresses disappointment at Saleem Shahzad commission report.

ISLAMABAD: 

On the eve of the World Press Freedom Day, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed disappointment over the report of a judicial commission constituted to probe the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad. 

In its 10th annual IFJ Press Freedom Report for South Asia, released on Wednesday, the international body said that though the appointment of commission was a major symbolic victory, the inquiry report was disappointing because the commission did not assign responsibility for the murder.

The report stated that the year 2011-12 in Pakistan continued to be one of serious hazard.

“Within this frontline state in a global conflict, the combatant parties are many and norms of accountability and international humanitarian law are dishonored by all. Journalists in Pakistan have to steer a perilous course between these hostile elements,” the report said.

Sectarian conflict in Karachi and an insurgency in Balochistan are additional elements of risk, the report added.

IFJ also appreciated the role of superior judiciary in Pakistan for penning down the verdict in favour employees of the news industry regarding the implementation of the wage board award.

Pushing into poverty

Reports from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) indicate that economic pressures have pushed many journalists into poverty. Monthly salaries, according to a survey carried out by PFUJ affiliate, the Punjab Union of Journalists, range between Rs30,000 and Rs50,000, inclusive of all allowances, in leading media houses. The smaller organisations though, pay between Rs10,000 and Rs15,000.

Though a few among the bigger media houses have started providing medical insurance, journalists are,by and large, deprived of this essential measure of social security.

The uncertain economy has also pushed many media houses into financial difficulties, leading in turn to chronic delays in payment of staff salaries. Meanwhile, there are many other private TV channels and publications where downsizing and salary delays are common. These difficulties make it a serious challenge for journalists to maintain ethical standards.

PPF report

One journalist has been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan during the first four months of 2012, while four journalists received life threats, said ‘Pakistan Press Freedom Report 2012’ issued by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) on Wednesday.

The report said during these four months a TV channel’s office was attacked, newspaper copies of same media group torched and transmission of Urdu language news channels was blocked.

At the end of 2011, Pakistan, named “the deadliest country for journalists,” recorded six deaths in 2011 where the motive was known. Its impunity rating worsened for the fourth straight year, the report said. (With additional input from PPI)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.

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