Freedom Network [FN] apprehends that the spate of violence directed at media in Pakistan over recent years may increase with escalation in hostilities between the government forces and Taliban militant groups and urges all stakeholders to ensure that the freedom of the press is not a casualty of the ongoing security crisis.
“With escalation in violence triggered by attacks on government forces by the militants and the response of the security forces, there is every possibility that the media may come under another wave of attacks in an attempt to influence the narrative of the crisis,” a statement issued on Friday by FN, Pakistan’s first watchdog on media security and freedom of expression, said in a statement issued here.
The statement added that in the given situation the media needs to take extra precautionary measures and reinforce security of journalists and media houses for their protection.
Militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid expressed his displeasure at Pakistani media’s coverage of his organization. “The national media is not reporting the TTP version in true spirit,” he told a group of Pakistani journalists during a press talk at an undisclosed location in North Waziristan on February 21, 2014. The phrase is used to warn the media of consequences if it does not change attitude.
FN had said in its press freedom alert in response to the attacks and attempted bombing against three media houses in Karachi on February 17, 2014: “The media is now a direct target and all these attempts aim to muzzle the vibrant press the country has for the first time. Working journalists, media assistants and media houses are now direct target across the country in general and Sindh province in particular. However, Karachi has gained significance where the threat is looming larger than ever before.”
The press freedom watchdog organziation urged all the key stakeholders – media owners, working journalists, the government and the civil society – to step up efforts aimed at devising a strategy to lower the threat level against media in a combined effort to defend freedom of expression, promote safety of journalists and media establishments and to combat impunity against the media and its practitioners.
FN also urged production and adoption of safety and ethical protocols by representative associations of media and its practitioners and special measures such as legislation on media safety and appointment of a special prosecutor by the government through a legal framework to combat impunity against media, which has reached alarming level as no prosecution has taken yet in any murder case involving Pakistani journalist since 2003.
“The committee of information and interior ministers that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has set up to strategize responses to combat attacks on media had its inaugural meeting on February 4, 2014 attended by representatives of media owners, working journalists and civil society (represented by Freedom Network) to thrash out a strategy against the attacks. This move is welcome. However, prompt follow-ups, as the interior minister suggested, should happen faster than routine process,” FN added, pressing all the stakeholders to show urgency in mobilizing all resources to keep the flag of press freedom flying high.
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