December 16th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
According to the Reporters Sans Frontier’s (RSF) annual list of journalists killed worldwide in 2021, two of the three journalists slain in Pakistan this year did not work for media outlets but had their own social media pages.
The RSF pointed out that the both killings signified a new development in the country. Non-traditional media practitioners covering sensitive stories as legacy media shies away because of threat of reprisals.
It named broadcast reporter Shahid Zehri, video blogger Muhammad Zada and amateur reporter Nazim Jokhiyo as the three journalists killed in Pakistan in 2021.
Speaking about Jokhiyo and Muhammad Zada, the RSF report said both were the victims of targeted murders that confirmed the dangers of their reporting and highlighted the degree to which the traditional media have ceased to cover such stories because of the threat of reprisals.
“It was one more sign of the curtailment of press freedom in Pakistan, where a total of 16 journalists have been killed in the past five years,” the RSF report said.
According to Freedom Network, RSF’s partner organisation in Pakistan, none of the many murders of journalists in Pakistan has been punished for nearly a decade.
Shahid Zehri, a reporter for local TV channel Metro One News, died of injuries sustained in a car bomb explosion in Hub town of Balochistan on October 10. The banned Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility of the explosion.
Muhammad Zada, a video blogger and editor of a Facebook page called Citizen Journalist PK, was gunned down by two motorcyclists in his home in Sakhakot town of Malakand district on November 8. He had recently become famous by drawing attention to the activities of local criminal groups and the complicity they enjoy within the local government in the district.
“By filling the gap left by the traditional media, which doesn’t dare cover certain sensitive subjects because of various forms of pressure and self-censorship, Muhammad Zada was providing his fellow citizens with absolutely vital information of a public interest nature. This appalling crime cannot go unpunished,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
Nazim Jokhiyo, an amateur video reporter based in the Malir locality in Karachi, was found murdered on November 3, a few hours after uploading a video in which he revealed that he was receiving threats. In his last video, Jokhiyo said the threats related to videos he posted about illegal hunting trips for Arab dignitaries from the Gulf. Local parliamentarians from the Pakistan Peoples Party have been nominated in his murder case.
“The brutality with which Nazim Jokhiyo was eliminated is all the more shocking because his murder was premeditated by a parliamentarian who is well-known in the region,” said Daniel Bastard.
According to the RSF annual roundup, RSF logged a total of 46 journalists and media workers killed in connection with their work in 2021 (from 1 January to 1 December).
The RSF noted that the killings registered the lowest figure in nearly 20 years. The accelerating downward trend since 2016 is mostly due to developments in regional conflicts (in Syria, Iraq and Yemen) and the stabilization of war fronts, after the particularly deadly years of 2012 and 2016.
Nonetheless, an average of nearly one journalist a week is still being killed in connection with their work, the RSF said.
The number of female journalists killed rose from two last year to four in 2021, while the proportion, 9%, was at its highest since 2017. This was due in part to the fall in the overall number of fatalities and in part to the death of three Afghan women media workers. The fourth female victim was Rasha Abdallah Alharazy, a Yemeni TV reporter who was killed in a targeted car bomb attack in Aden, Yemen’s provisional capital, in November.
The RSP report said two-thirds of those killed were murdered. These four women were the victims of targeted killings, as were 26 other journalists.
This means that nearly two-thirds (65%) of the journalists killed in 2021 were deliberately eliminated. “While this proportion is less than in 2020, when a record 85% of the journalists killed were deliberately targeted, it is nonetheless slightly higher than the average for the past five years.”
For the first time in five years, the proportion of journalists killed in countries not at war fell slightly. Nonetheless, three of every five victims were killed in countries not officially at war, and even the region regarded as the safest in the world for journalists, the European Union, was affected, the RSF said.