ISLAMABAD: The threat of terrorist attacks, violent protests and political intrigue make Islamabad a risky place for practising journalism.
In the year 2009, journalists suffered 28 attacks in the twin cities, according to a report that highlights media issues. These attacks include murders, kidnappings, assault, explicit threats, censorship and attacks on media property.
Two journalists were killed in targeted attacks in the twin cities in 2009, while 12 were injured in violent clashes with the police during news coverage. The two murder cases remain unresolved.
No arrests have been made despite government assurances of speedy justice. Raja Asad Hameed, a senior journalist working for The Nation, was shot three times by unknown gunmen in front of his house in April 2009.
Despite being shot in a populated neighbourhood in Rawalpindi, no eye-witnesses came forward. After almost a year, no breakthrough has been achieved during investigations into the incident, with police maintaining that the killers of Hameed left no evidence. Raja Asad Hameed left behind two daughters, including one disabled child.
Both the Punjab and the federal government assured Hameed’s family that the perpetrators would be arrested and prosecuted as soon as possible. But his widow, Shabana Asad, told The Express Tribune that the government only gave false assurances. “I was promised financial support, I was promised his killers would be brought to justice. I have received nothing so far,” she said.
Many others became victims of target killing attempts. Those who survived were seriously injured. However, the real motives behind these attacks never surfaced. Raja Asad Hameed’s family accused the police of not making a serious effort to collect evidence against the perpetrators. SP Rescue 15, Abdul Ghafar Qaisarani acknowledged that the level of threat to journalists is high in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
“Journalists put their lives in danger. I think their work is more difficult than ours. Amid terrorist activities and violent protests, journalism is becoming an increasingly difficult job in Islamabad,” he said. SP Rescue 15, said evidence collection and prosecution required a serious effort from the police.
“If police put in more effort to find evidence and produce it before a court of law, I think the chances of conviction of the suspects would be greater,” he said. Another journalist, Raza Ali was tortured and killed in September 2009 by unknown persons in his house in Sector I-8, Islamabad. The killers remain on the loose. Police claimed that it was a robbery vattempt, but this was strongly denied by his family. Analysts believe that media organisations need to press law enforcement agencies to put in place a better system of prosecution and evidence collection.