December 12th, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
Pakistan and India have both been included among the five ‘Most Dangerous Countries for Practice of Journalism in the World’ by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its ‘White Paper on Global Journalism’.
According to the white paper issued on the 30th anniversary of the IFJ annual, ‘The List of Journalists Killed (1990-2020), 2,658 journalists had lost their lives during the performance of professional duties in 30 years. Pakistan has been placed third in the list of most dangerous countries, with 138 journalists killed, followed by India with 116 journalists murdered in a span of 30 years. Iraq topped the list of most dangerous countries for practicing journalism, as 340 journalists have lost their lives there, followed by Mexico with 178 journalists killed and the Philippines came third as 159 journalists were slain there in the discharge of their duties. Russia was placed sixth on the list as 110 journalists were slain there, followed by Algeria (106), Syria (96), Somalia (93), and Afghanistan (93).
In the Indian sub-continent, murders of journalists in Pakistan (138) and in India (116) have featured almost every year in the list since 1990, making 40 percent of the total deaths of journalists in the Asia Pacific region.
In 2020, the IFJ has recorded 42 killings of journalists and media staff in targeted attacks, bomb blasts, and cross-fire incidents in 15 countries in the world. In its 2020 ranking per country, Mexico tops the list for the fourth time in five years with 13 killings, followed by Pakistan with 5 killings while Afghanistan, India, Iraq, and Nigeria recorded 3 killings each. There were also two killings in the Philippines, Somalia, and Syria. Finally, there was one journalist killed in Cameroon, Honduras, Paraguay, Russia, Sweden, and Yemen. The white paper listed killings till November 29, 2020.
The white paper said the current year’s killings are less than the 49 from last year and continue the downward trend of recent years of loss of life to violence among journalists in the world. The IFJ records show that the current number of killings of media professionals are at the same levels as in 1990 when the IFJ started publishing annual reports on journalists and media staff killed, which show peaks of death tolls in the mid-nineties and mid-2000s. But the Federation warns against complacency, saying that the welcome drop is small consolation in the face of a sustained roll call of tragedy and death due to violence targeting media professionals over these decades.
Organized criminal cartels, extremists’ insurgencies, and sectarian violence continue to strike terror among journalists, scores of whom have paid the ultimate price for independent reporting in the four corners of the globe. The ruthless reign of crime barons in Mexico, the violence of extremists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia as well as the intolerance of hardliners in India and the Philippines have contributed to the continued bloodshed in the media.
2020 killings in Pakistan
According to the IFJ website, six journalists have lost their lives in the discharge of their duties in Pakistan this year. The slain journalists are Aziz Memon, Zulfiqar Mandrani, Anwar Jan, Abid Hussain, Javed Khan, and Qais Javid.
Qais Javed, a journalist affiliated with Ehadnama media news, was shot dead in front of his home on the night of December 7 in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Unidentified gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot Qais Javed multiple times around his stomach before decamping from the scene. He was rushed to a nearby hospital in Dera Ismail Khan but died on the way. Police are yet to make any arrests.
ABID HUSSAIN ABIDI
Abid Hussain Abidi, affiliated with local newspaper Jurm-o- Saza, was shot dead in Malikwal tehsil of Mandi Bahaudin district in Punjab on September 25 by unidentified gunmen. Two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire targeting Jurm-o- Saza journalist Abidi when the journalist and his brother Muhammad Asif were returning home. The journalist sustained serious injuries to his legs and was taken to local Malikwal hospital. Given the severity of the injuries, the hospital referred the journalist to the district hospital for further treatment. Abidi died on the way to the district hospital.
According to Abidi’s brother Asif, the gunmen at first shouted that their attack was in retaliation for a report Abidi had published. They then shot at Abidi and fled the scene. Asif filed a First Information Report (FIR) in Malikwal police station. Police has arrested one suspect, allegedly involved in Abidi’s murder.
Journalist Anwar Jan, who worked with the Daily “Naveed-e-Pakistan” newspaper was shot dead by two gunmen while walking home in Barkhan, Balochistan on July 23.
Anwar Jan’s family accused Abdul Rehman Khetran, the minister for food in the Balochistan province, of ordering Jan’s murder in retaliation to his investigative reporting and social media activism on the alleged corruption of landlords. Police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against two bodyguards who work for Abdur Rehman, the provincial minister. Pakistani police have stated they are investigating the provincial minister’s alleged involvement in the killing of Jan. The provincial minister has denied all accusations of his involvement in Jan’s murder.
Zulfiqar Ali Mandrani, a senior journalist with the Sindhi newspaper Daily Koshish was shot dead in Jacobabad on May 26. Police registered a case against six suspects, accused of the murder of KTN news journalist. SSP Jacobadad, Bashir Ahmed Brohi announced four out of the six accused are at large, including Akbar Ali, Syed Imam Shah, Gluam Ali and policeman Mumtaz Daio. Currently, only Nazir Daio and Riaz Daio have been arrested, found carrying weapons allegedly used in the murder.
Mandrani’s father claims the six men attacked his son near a market place, took him to an empty house and killed him. According to the father, the six accused have a history of threatening his son in retaliation to his news coverage on them.
Javed Khan, the bureau chief for Ausaf, the Urdu language daily newspaper in Matta, was shot and critically injured by two unidentified gunmen who opened fire on his vehicle in Swat on February 26. Reports said that the local police confirmed the incident, saying that the journalist was with a police guard in what they described as ‘a targeted attack’. Javed Khan,36, who previously worked as a correspondent for Dawn in Mingora, a locality of the Swat valley, was taken to hospital but died on the way.
Aziz Memon, a journalist with Kawish Television Network (KTN) TV and Sindhi-language Daily Kawish was found dead in an irrigation waterway in Mehrabpur in Southern Sindh on February 16. The body of 56-year-old Memon was recovered from a canal near Gaddo Bridge in the Naushahro Feroze district near where he lived, after locals reported a body floating in the water. Memon, who was also president of the Mehrabpur Press Club, was found with wire tied around his neck. His body was taken to the Sindh-based Taluka Hospital for medical and legal formalities. Initial investigations indicate he died from strangulation.
Police said Memon received many threats during his 30-year career. Last year he received a threat from a member of the national assembly. Memon had released a video message announcing he received serious threats for breaking a story against the ruling party in Sindh province and that a senior district police officer had threatened him with dire consequences. Despite applications to the district and provincial authorities, his case has not been given ‘serious attention’.
235 journalists in jails
The International Federation of Journalists also published a list of at least 235 journalists who are currently in prisons in 34 countries, in work-related cases. Countries with the highest numbers of journalists in prison include Turkey (67), Egypt (21), China (23), Eritrea (16), Saudi Arabia (14), Belarus (11), Yemen and Cambodia (9) , Cameroon (6), Morocco and Myanmar (5). The IFJ listed one journalist each jailed in Pakistan and India.
The IFJ’s list does not include other journalists facing charges but who have been released on bail.
In its first global study on journalists in prison, the IFJ found that jailing media professionals is often a form of reprisals against brave journalists who stand up for independent reporting, which also serves as a deterrent to others. This is especially the case in times of political upheaval and civil unrest where governments resort to a crackdown on the media as a means to deny the public access to reliable information.
The study also found many more cases of journalists who were detained for short periods of time before being released without charges, underscoring the fact that their detention had nothing to do with law-breaking but just sheer abuse of power to escape scrutiny for their actions in public office.
According to the study’s findings, Europe is the region with the highest number of journalists in jail, with 91 media professionals in detention, the majority of whom are held in Turkey and Belarus. Africa follows on 62 with Egypt leading the region. Asia Pacific’s list, dominated by China, comes in third place with 47. The Middle East and Arab World with its 33 tally claims fourth place featuring Saudi Arabia at the top. The Americas are a distant fifth with just cases in Cuba and Venezuela.