Pakistani and international print and electronic media have been publishing heartbreaking reports on the harassment of Journalist by Pakistan state security agencies and militant groups since 9/11. Taliban, sectarian groups and ISI are harassing working journalists and now decided to translate their threat into action. Two years ago, international community ranked Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous state for journalists.
Pakistani journalists have been receiving bad treatment from the state authorities since the September 2011 as the country became a front line state in the war against terrorism. Hundreds of media workers and investigative journalist received death threats over the last eleven years and many of them are still living in fear. In a latest freedom of press index released by Reporters without Border, Pakistan dropped eight places to 158th out of 179 states. Experts believe that failure of Pakistani establishment to provide security to journalist’s families is a major factor contributing to Pakistan’s shameful reputation as a graveyard for writers and journalists.
Risks to the live of media men have increased these years. Moreover, war in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Waziristan, Aurakzai and Karachi along with sectarian and ethnic terrorism and the actions of murder squad of intelligence agencies have also led to the killing of local journalists. In January 2013, three more journalists were killed in Quetta. In Karachi, recently, terming Pakistan a dangerous place for journalists, speakers at a media workshop said that 65 journalists were killed during the last five years. Speaking about the vulnerability of journalists, speakers said that on an average one journalist was killed in every 28 days.
According to international media, more than 48 journalists have been killed in Pakistan by various terror groups and state agencies. Among these journalists, 14 were from Khyber pakhtukhwa, 12 from Baluchistan, nine from Sindh and three from Punjab province. The number of incarcerated, missing, intimidated and harassed journalist is unknown. In view of these threats and harassment, dozens of Pakistani journalists relinquished their profession and moved to safe places. with their families. Last year, from January to December seven journalists were killed. In 2011, 16 journalists were killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies and extremist groups.
Before going into the detail of journalist Mr. Saqib Raja’s heartbreaking story and the murder of his son, I would like to highlight the attitude of Pakistani establishment and its intelligence agencies towards journalists in brief Journalists like Hamid Mir, Omar Cheema, Najjam Sethi, Gulam Muhayuddin of Sama TV and many other have often been harassed and intimidated. In December last year, Hamid Mir circulated an email message describing the threats he received. Later on he was attacked. Asian Human Rights Commission condemned attack on Hamid Mir. Mr. Hamid Mir said the main enemy is the state, the army and intelligence agencies. Known journalist Mr. Saleem Shehzad was kidnapped, tortured and later on found dead in a canal. Mr. Hamid Mir is confident that ISI was behind his murder. Another sad story of the brutal killing of a Pakistani journalist Malik Mumtaz in North Waziristan appeared in newspaper in the last week of January 2013. According to a Geo Television report, Malik came under attack near Chashma Bridge. Malik Mumtaz was recently elected President of Miranshah Press Club. Another senior journalist Mr. Khshnood Ali Sheikh, the chief reporter of the state controlled Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) was killed in Karachi by mafia groups. He was killed in February 25, 2013 as he refused to pay Rs, 50,000 in extortion..
An addition to the above mentioned attitude of Pakistani establishment towards journalist, recently, another Pakistani journalist came under attack for his courageous investigative reporting Journalist Mr. Saqib Raja who fled Pakistan in fear of his family’s safety claimed asylum in the UK. He is the son of a mother who served as a doctor and a father who served as high ranking police officer in Pakistan. In 1997 Mr. Saqib Raja became widely regarded as the best crime reporter in Pakistan. He reported Benazir Bhutto’s assassination case. Suicide attacks, the case of the British boy Sahil who was kidnapped for ransom.
He also reported the story of government corruption where a cabinet resignation followed. Mr. Raja exposed the flawed strategies of Pakistan’s brutal war against the people of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Raja is a brilliant young journalist who in pursuit of truth and in the interest of his country exposed what was bad and wrong. It is conceivable that he has made some powerful people upset by reporting their crimes and corruption. Military establishment was also behind him while ISI was angrier with him.
Mr. Saqib Raja wrote a letter to the President and Prime Minister asking for his family security but refused. Professor Hamid Asghar of Gujjar Khan District, in a letter to DAWN defended Mr. Saqib Raja and said that some elements are maligning his position and he is receiving death threats.
During the Christmas days in 2010 his son was found died in mysterious circumstances. His son was poisoned by Pakistani intelligence agencies or terrorist groups.--they chased him consecutively but he had then considered that his whole family was at risk. Mr. Saqib Raja subsequently sent his wife and daughters into hiding and fled to the UK with his reaming son, where he hopes to be less recognized and safer. Loss of his son has had a considerable impact upon his mental health. He currently considered that there is no happiness light or hope since his son was poisoned. In view of the attitude of Pakistani government and its security agencies towards journalists, Asian Human rights Commission urged Pakistani establishment to implement article 19 of the constitution and the UN political right law regarding the freedom of expression. The government must also provide protection to the working journalists.