Roots of Impunity


The Committee to Protect Journalists offers the following recommendations to Pakistani authorities, the Pakistani news media, and the international community.

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Roots of Impunity
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To the government of Pakistan:

  • Investigate thoroughly and prosecute all those responsible for the murders of Mukarram Khan Aatif and Wali Khan Babar, along with all those responsible for the murders of witnesses and investigators connected to the Babar case. Commit sufficient resources, political support, and security to those investigations. Doing so would demonstrate that all individuals and entities are accountable under the law.
  • Reopen the 21 other unsolved journalist murder cases of the past decade. Investigate thoroughly, apprehend all those responsible, and bring about successful prosecutions. Doing so would demonstrate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.
  • Publicly disclose the findings of all official inquiries into attacks on journalists. In particular, release the findings of the official inquiry into the murder of Hayatullah Khan, who was found murdered in 2006 after covering a sensitive national security matter.
  • Provide sufficient staffing, funding, and training for police and prosecutors. End the practice of applying political pressure on law enforcement officials. Direct the intelligence services and all other arms of government to halt all efforts to intimidate or pressure law enforcement.
  • Enact a statutory framework for the nation’s intelligence services, as recommended by the commission of inquiry in the Saleem Shahzad murder. The aim, the commission said, is to make the agencies “more accountable through effective and suitably tailored mechanisms of internal administrative review, and Parliamentary oversight.”
  • As recommended by the Shahzad commission, create an ombudsman to address “grievances of anyone who complains of misconduct, or suspected misconduct by intelligence officials and agents.” News media complaints, as the commission urged, “should be treated with particular seriousness.”
  • Consider the adoption of journalist protection initiatives modeled on those in other nations. They include measures such as those in Mexico, which federalized crimes against journalists and established a federal special prosecutor’s office for crimes against free expression, and in Colombia, which provides security directly to journalists under threat.
  • Cooperate fully in the creation and implementation of programs promoted through the U.N. Action Plan on Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Through its delegations to the United Nations, support funding and other resources needed for the plan to move forward.
  • Create the necessary legal framework for the issuance of private broadcast licenses in the tribal areas. Set standards that are equitable with those applied elsewhere in the country, and issue licenses in a timely manner.
  • Ensure that international news media are allowed access to Baluchistan and the tribal areas.

To Pakistani news media:

  • Expand and strengthen security training and protocols across the profession. Training should be provided to journalists at news organizations of all sizes and to freelance journalists. Work with local and international NGOs that are engaged in this process.
  • Expand and strengthen existing cooperative professional efforts, ensuring that all key professional groups are represented. Speak with a unified voice in condemning and seeking action in response to attacks, threats, and intimidation of the news media. Consider drafting and promoting professional guidelines to assist journalists and news organizations confronting issues of security and ethics. In Colombia, for example, news organizations came together to develop guidelines for covering violent conflict.
  • Work cooperatively to create and implement programs promoted through the U.N. Action Plan on Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
  • Report on issues of anti-press violence, including individual attacks, threats, and intimidation of the news media, and Pakistan’s broad progress in implementing the U.N. Action Plan.
  • Promote higher educational opportunities for journalists. Most universities offer undergraduate and graduate courses in media studies or communications, but not in journalism. Large media houses and professional groups, in particular, should prioritize and provide support for the establishment of Urdu- and English-language journalism schools.

To the international community:

  • U.N. member states should support the funding and resources needed to fully implement the U.N. Action Plan on Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
  • International donors should provide financial support and expertise for security training of Pakistani journalists. Donors should focus on initiatives aimed at freelance journalists and those who work for mid-size and small news outlets.
  • International news organizations should ensure that security training is provided to all of their local journalists. International news outlets should closely examine the extreme risks their local journalists face, adjust their policies in conformance with those risks, and ensure those policies are fully explained to journalists in the field. The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors should pay special attention to the unique risks that journalists face when working for U.S. government-funded news agencies.

(Photo by AP)

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