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Pakistan

2011

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Reporters in Baluchistan have organized a string of protests over lack of safety. (ONLINE News Network)

Reporters in Pakistan's conflict-stricken province of Baluchistan have been organizing to display their anger against the continued death threats they have been receiving from government secret services, religious militant groups, and armed nationalist organizations. Their most recent demonstration on October 1 was only one in a string of protests to confront the problem.

A journalist hangs a lock across his lips during a protest in response to the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AFP)
For the past several weeks, CPJ's Asia and Journalist Assistance programs have been in regular contact with local and international organizations who are concerned about the rising number of journalists and media workers at risk in Pakistan. CPJ and several other groups are working together on viable, in-country solutions: Journalists in Pakistan are in need of trauma counseling, urgent relocation, or support so that they may remain in hiding and avoid threats or physical attacks.

In a blog entry on August 5, "Quantifying the threat to journalists in Pakistan," CPJ's Sheryl Mendez and I tried to measure what seems to be a rising number of threats aimed at journalists in Pakistan. We wrote about how the problem is rapidly growing as Pakistan's security situation worsens and the civilian government appears unwilling or unable to act. It is, however, tough to quantify the problem when so many journalists fear disclosing the threats they receive. 

Pakistani journalists offer funeral prayers for their slain colleague Saleem Shahzad in June. (AP/B.K.Bangash)

For many journalists working in Pakistan, death threats and menacing messages are simply seen as part of their job. But since December 2010, CPJ's Journalist Assistance Program (JA) has processed requests for help from 16 journalists in Pakistan who are dealing with threats. Others have told us of threats they have received in the event that they are attacked. 

Pakistan's journalists, watching the domestic stories they are covering become increasingly more dangerous, have started taking safety matters into their own hands. Zaffar Abbas, editor at the English-language daily Dawn, just forwarded to me a safety guide for journalists he has been circulating around his paper. His explanation:

From a poster by the International Federation of Journalists and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

I got an early version of the Khyber Union of Journalists' (KhUJ) list of safety rules and tips for field reports around June 16, after the June 11 double bomb in a crowded market that killed two journalists in Peshawar. Yousaf Ali, KhUJ's general secretary had forwarded the list. It was quickly drawn up after that very ugly incident in which five other journalists were injured--in all 36 people were killed. 

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik briefs Karachi's vibrant--and threatened--media in Karachi in May. (AP/Shakil Adil)

Karachi, Pakistan's economic hub, is one of the country's main media centers, with more than 2,000 journalists and the head offices of leading media organizations. Journalists in the city have come under attack before, with seven journalists killed there since 1994. But the situation was never as dangerous as it has been this past year.

Concerned that so many Pakistani journalists have been threatened, abducted, killed, or beaten recently? So are they. When I was in Karachi and Islamabad in late April and early May, I found that they are starting to take steps to protect themselves with increased safety training and protective gear at the larger media houses that can afford it. Freelancers and journalists who work for smaller media organizations or are stringing in rural areas or conflict zones will need more help in getting access to that sort or training and equipment, though.  

Berhane (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

In 2007, my colleague Karen Phillips suggested we do something to mark World Refugee Day. Initially planning to publish a brief statement, I set about reviewing our data for background, checking in with older journalist cases about their current situation and looking broadly for trends to highlight. As the number of cases began counting into the hundreds, it became clear that what we had was a new indicator of press freedom conditions. Today, we're marking our fifth year of publishing the CPJ survey of journalists in exile, which is based on 10 years of data on 649 cases. 

Abdul Salam Somroo is in danger. He is the Awaz TV cameraman who took the June 9 video footage of the pointblank murder of a young man, Sarfaraz Shah, in southern Karachi. That's the same part of the city where militants beheaded American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Only when Somroo got back to the offices of the Sindhi-language TV station and played back his full tape did he realize he had the most explosive footage he had ever recorded. Explosive, and dangerous.

2011

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Killed in Pakistan

54 journalists killed since 1992

30 journalists murdered

28 murdered with impunity

Attacks on the Press 2012

7 Killed in 2012, making Pakistan the world's third deadliest nation.

Country data, analysis »

Contact

Asia

Program Coordinator:
Bob Dietz

bdietz@cpj.org

Tel: 212-465-1004
ext. 140, 115
Fax: 212-465-9568

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Blog: Bob Dietz