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Pakistan

2012

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Journalist Hayatullah Khan, shown in the picture above surrounded by his family, was killed in 2006. (AP/Abdullah Noor)

In case there was any doubt about the stance of Pakistani authorities on the murder of journalists, UNESCO's 28th biennial session offered an instructive insight. In addition to discussing the U.N. Draft Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity during the meeting, held in Paris in March, member states were to report on judicial inquiries into the killings of journalists from 2006 to 2009. Pakistan was among 17 countries that did not respond to the request. It was also one of three countries that refused to discuss the UNESCO draft, intended to take legislative measures to combat attacks on the press. This was a reflection of our sad state of affairs.

Pakistani journalists rally against the killing of their colleague Mukarram Khan Atif. No arrests have been made in the case. (AP/Mohammad Sajjad)

Pakistani journalists are under threat, and the public is paying the price. The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan includes a detailed chapter on freedom of expression, which ties growing suppression to rising incidence of violence and threats against news media. Not coincidentally, Pakistan sits near the top of CPJ's Impunity Index and other the global lists of most dangerous countries for reporters.

Given that it is usually punishable by death, "treason" is a dangerous word to bandy about. When it is applied to journalists, it is even more worrisome. We've seen that in Sri Lanka, which is in the throes of a backlash against a U.N. resolution on past human rights abuses. (See "Amid Sri Lankan denial, threats rise for journalists.") Photographs of journalists who have been critical of Colombo, their faces barely obscured, have been shown on television; one broadcast even repeatedly used the picture of a journalist's daughter, according to the Network for Rights media support group. 

At Columbia University on Monday evening, CPJ board member Ahmed Rashid held forth to a full house in a conversation with Steve Coll about U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you're reading this blog, there's most likely no need to explain who Rashid is--or Coll, for that matter. The earliest reference I could find on cpj.org to Rashid dated back to 2000, about events in 1999, when he was the Islamabad bureau chief for the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review. His latest book, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, is the most recent installment in a steady stream of trenchant, reliable, reality-based analysis of geopolitical affairs in Central and South Asia. If you need to be convinced, check out Foreign Policy's list of Top 100 Global Thinkers.

A video of the event, which was co-sponsored by CPJ, is now available here.

Pakistani military stand guard during a protest by journalists over the death of Saleem Shahzad in June 2011. (AP/B.K.Bangash)

In Pakistan, the term "a war of words" can take on a menacing dimension beyond the metaphorical. Words--written, spoken, or reported--regularly land journalists in trouble, a very literal, physical sort of trouble. Reporters have become accustomed to being threatened, and over the years they've seen threats sometimes build to abductions, beatings, and even death. Such violence seldom comes without a string of prior warnings.

In the last few days, messages from two journalists in Pakistan have made me realize that I can't turn away from publicizing the threats they are facing, because they just keep coming. 

Pakistani journalists protest the killing of Mukarram Khan Aatif in Peshawar. (AP/Mohammad Sajjad)

CPJ award winner Mazhar Abbas penned a strong Sunday op-ed piece, "Death is the only news--Challenges of working in conflict zones," for The News. It's about conditions for journalists working in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. As Abbas says, "The killing of one journalist is a message for another." He goes on to describe the situation in FATA:

Pakistani journalists protest the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AFP/Rizwan Tabassum)

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl in Karachi on January 23, 2002. On February 21 of that year, a video of his beheading was released. In the wake of the judicial inquiry into the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, veteran Pakistani journalist Mazhar Abbas has taken a comparative look at the two investigations with this article from the most recent magazine section of The News on Sunday.

Protesters denounce the murder of Mukarram Khan Aatif. (AFP/A. Majeed)

It was in January four years ago that nearly 100 journalists from all over Pakistan got together to launch a new TV channel in Lahore, Dunya TV. That was where I first met Mukarram Khan Aatif, our reporter from Mohmand.

With the shooting of Mukarram Khan Aatif on Tuesday, the once high-profile case of Saleem Shahzad has almost been overtaken by events. The day before Aatif's death, Umar Cheema had sent me a link to his analysis of the judicial inquiry into the killing of Saleem Shahzad.

2012

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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 »

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Bob Dietz

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