In the line of fire: Another violence filled year for journalists in Pakistan

Published: December 23, 2014
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A Tribune tally of journalists and media workers killed in Pakistan during 2014 stands at 15. PHOTO: EXPRESS/MOHAMMAD NOMAN

A Tribune tally of journalists and media workers killed in Pakistan during 2014 stands at 15. PHOTO: EXPRESS/MOHAMMAD NOMAN

Initial reports had suggested that it was a possible case of new year celebrations gone horribly wrong — that the bullet wound in journalist Shan Dahar’s back was from a stray bullet fired in revelry. But soon, it became clear that the Larkana based reporter had become the first journalist to be targeted in 2014.

Dahar’s death set the tone for a year of violence against journalists and media workers in Pakistan with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noting in its annual report that seven journalists and media workers were killed during the calendar year.

This is down from 2013 when eight journalists and media workers were killed (motive confirmed: 5) and a far cry from the 20 year highs of 11 in 2010 and 2011.

In the report released on Tuesday, the CPJ said three journalists, including Dahar (Abb Takk Television), Ghulam Rasool and Irshad Mastoi (Online International News Network) were killed for their work. Since 1992, the CPJ said it has confirmed that 56 journalists in Pakistan had been killed in direct reprisal for their work.

The report added that the motive behind Ijaz Mengal’s (Daily Intekhab) murder in Khuzdar remains unconfirmed. According to CPJ’s data, motives behind the murders of 19 journalists in Pakistan remains unconfirmed with cases stretching back to 1998.

The report also noted the murder of three media workers belonging to Express Media Group. The three workers, Waqas Aziz Khan, Mohammad Khalid and Ashraf Arain, were allegedly shot dead by militants as they sat in their news van in Karachi. They are among six murders of media workers in Pakistan, as recorded by the CPJ.

A Tribune tally of journalists and media workers killed in Pakistan during 2014 stands at 15.

The report, which called Pakistan “among the most dangerous place for press over time,” said violence against journalists in the country continued. While the deaths were down from previous years, 2014 saw unprecedented violence against journalists from all quarters.

It noted that television anchor Raza Rumi escaped an attack in Lahore in March which saw his driver killed. A month later in April, Geo Television’s senior news anchor Hamid Mir survived after being shot six times just as he left Karachi airport.

Deadly year for international correspondents

The murders of foreign journalists by the Islamic State group contributed to 2014 being a particularly deadly year for international correspondents, especially in the Middle East, CPJ said.

The CPJ study found that an “unusually high proportion” of the 60 journalists who died reporting from the world’s trouble-spots in 2014 were international journalists.

Among the grim toll were American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, whose horrific beheadings by IS jihadists were published by the group in online videos in August and September.

German photographer Anja Niedringhaus also died after being shot by a police officer while working in Afghanistan covering elections for The Associated Press.

Six international journalists were among five reporters and two media workers killed in Ukraine this year, the first journalism-related killings CPJ has confirmed in the country since 2001.

In total, around a quarter of journalist fatalities in 2014 involved international correspondents — roughly double the usual mortality rate, the CPJ reported.

However despite the high casualty rate of Western journalists, the study found that the “overwhelming majority” of reporters at risk for their work around the world continue to be local.

The CPJ cited the case of Syria, the deadliest country for journalists in 2014 for a third straight year with 17 deaths, as an example of the risks faced by local reporters.

Of the approximately 20 journalists estimated to be held hostage by the IS group, most are local, the CPJ said.

In total, some 79 reporters have been killed in Syria since the country’s bloody civil war erupted in 2011.

Syria has now passed the Philippines as the second deadliest place for reporters since the CPJ began keeping its tally of journalist killings in 1992. Iraq is the deadliest.

The CPJ said around half of the journalists killed in 2014 died in the Middle East, with 39 per cent of them losing their lives in combat or crossfire.

The latest annual death toll means the past three years are the most deadly period ever recorded by the CPJ.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • straightshooter
    Dec 24, 2014 - 1:23AM

    ET, you’ve had your share of scars in this fight against intolerance, well before the rest of us woke up. Take a bow :-)

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