NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 11

Hard times for journalists

Journalism is becoming very difficult and dangerous for journalists across the world. The governments, especially the rulers of Third World countries, are taking every measure to stop journalists from exposing their ruthless atrocities, gory crimes, mega corruption and human rights violations. They are threatening, torturing, arresting and even killing journalists to conceal their real faces.

In 2021, 55 journalists, four Pakistanis among them, were killed. Around seven journalists were killed even in Britain and America. Twenty-three journalists were murdered in the Asia-Pacific and 14 were killed in Latin America and the Caribbean, while hundreds of journalists have been put behind bars across the world.

According to the latest UN data, fifty-five journalists and media professionals were killed in 2021, with nearly nine in 10 killings since 2006 still unresolved.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) stated that 1,490 journalists have been killed across the globe since 1993, including in places like Britain and the United States of America where seven journalists were killed during this period. Two journalists were killed in Britain in 2019.

In Pakistan, 85 journalists have been killed since 1993, including four killed in 2021. In India, 52 journalists have been killed since 1993, five in 2021. Eighty-one journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 1993 and eight in 2021. Twenty-four journalists have been killed in Bangladesh, two in 2021. The report also states that nearly three-quarters of female media professionals have experienced online violence linked to their work.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said: “Once again in 2021, far too many journalists paid the ultimate price to bring truth to light. Right now, the world needs independent, factual information more than ever. We must do more to ensure that those who work tirelessly to provide this can do so without fear”.

In its annual report, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists states that the number of journalists jailed around the world hit a new record in 2021. According to the report, around 293 journalists had been in prison worldwide as of December 1, 2021. In 2020, 280 journalists were in prison. Unfortunately, the number has increased in 2021. The report listed 50 journalists imprisoned in China, 26 in Burma, 25 in Egypt, 23 in Vietnam and 19 in Belarus. The report has also added names of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Ethiopia and Eritrea where journalists have been put in prison.

Joel Simon, executive director of the group, said: “This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world. Imprisoning journalists for reporting the news is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime. It’s distressing to see many countries on the list year after year, but it is especially horrifying that Myanmar and Ethiopia have so brutally slammed the door on press freedom”.

In another report, Reporters Without Borders claims that there are currently 488 media professionals imprisoned and 46 killed around the world in 2021.

“The number of journalists detained in connection with their work has never been this high since RSF began publishing its annual round-up in 1995,” the RSF said. “China leads the way for imprisoned journalists with 127, Myanmar is second with 53, followed by Vietnam (43), Belarus (32) and Saudi Arabia (31),” the report said.

The figures show that journalists are facing overwhelming difficulties in performing their professional duties across the world.

In Pakistan, journalists and media houses are also facing many difficulties and threats from the government, opposition political, religious and militant parties. Four journalists have been killed while performing their professional duties in 2021.

Pakistan was at 145th position out of 180 countries in 2020. According to the RSF report published in 2020, media houses have been threatened with the withdrawal of advertising. The signals of TV channels that gave airtime to opposition representatives have been jammed. Journalists, who dared to broach subjects deemed off limits by the government, have been subjected to harassment campaigns. After reining in the traditional media, the government has set about purging the internet and social media of content not to its liking. To that end, the government is trying to step up online “regulation”, by which it clearly means censorship. Journalists, meanwhile, continue to be at risk in the field, especially Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where reporters are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and militants. Four journalists and a blogger were killed in connection with their reporting in 2019, while one journalist was killed in 2020. And, as has been the case for at least a decade, there was total impunity for crimes of violence against journalists. The RSF stated that Pakistani media, which has a long tradition of being very lively, has become a priority target. “The influence has increased dramatically since Imran Khan became prime minister in July 2018,” it added.

On the other hand, even the PML-N government has taken pains to curb the freedom of the media. The leaked phone conversation between Maryam Nawaz and Pervez Rasheed about a programme on a news channel has exposed the sick mentality of our politicians who want to control the media at every cost. The leak also exposes the real face of media houses’ owners who just want to serve the rulers’ interests by shunning aside the media’s impartiality. It is a sheer violation of media ethics. Despite being ashamed of her attitude and action, Maryam has denounced those people who recorded her conversation. It shows that Pakistani politicians do not have any morality and ethics. They can rebuke, threaten, beat and bribe journalists and media houses’ owners to silence them. PTI Minister Fawad Chaudhry beat anchor Sami Ibrahim without any fear and regret. No action has been taken against him and no action will be taken against Maryam and Pervez Rasheed, because law and morality are only for the poor people to control them. The ruling elite is above the law and morality in Pakistan. In short, professional journalists and journalism will continue to face hard times in the coming days.