Freedom Network [FN] has expressed grave concern at security threats to journalists in Khuzdar district of Balochistan and closure of its press club and has urged the provincial government to stand by the media and bring those threatening journalists to justice.
Khuzdar is the deadliest district in Balochistan and one of the worst all over Pakistan where most journalists have so far been killed – about a dozen in the last six years, according to local journalists.
Pakistan has been consistently ranked among the top ten worst countries to practice journalism in the annual press freedom indices by several international media watchdogs over the past decade. Over 100 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 2000, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, including 21 in Balochistan. The killers of only two have been identified and sentenced. The United Nations has included Pakistan among five pilot countries for implementation of its UN Action Plan on Impunity against Journalists to facilitate stakeholders to combat impunity.
“The ongoing threats to journalists and closure of Khuzdar Press Club for a second time in two years are serious issues concerning state of the freedom of press and the freedom of expression in Balochistan,” FN, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization, said on August 5, 2014 in press freedom alert.
“The continuous absence of justice has promoted impunity of crimes against media and FN urges the Balochistan government, led by Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik, to protect journalists of Khuzdar against any threat or harm,” the press freedom alert said.
Senior journalists told FN on August 5, 2014 that the decision to close Khuzdar Press Club was taken following threats from groups accused of involvement in extortion and who didn’t want their activities exposed in the media.
They said the threats were hurled after Hindu community traders addressed a news conference at the Khuzdar Press Club a day before Eid-ul-Fitr holidays in the last week of July 2014 naming some persons who were allegedly demanding money from them.
“We are facing security threats from all sides,” a journalist from Khuzdar now living outside Balochistan on security grounds told FN, requesting anonymity, adding that if journalists cover one side or the other they face the consequences.
A former president of Khuzdar Press Club said, when contacted, practically the press club in Khuzdar district “is closed for the last three months as all journalists have moved out of the district for security reason and few of us are staying back but they cannot work as journalist.”