Journalists wants fully operational safety commission at earliest

Karachi (Syed Talat Abbas Shah) A collapsing criminal justice system, a state that is routinely accused of complicity and political and social instability means that those who murder journalists continue to get away scot-free. This culture of impunity has flourished and pervaded across tiers of society and can be combatted through unconventional solutions like a people’s tribunal.

This was among the opinions expressed by journalists at a symposium on the safety and protection of
journalists. It was organized by the Centre of Excellence in Journalism at IBA, Karachi in collaboration with press freedom bodies Free Press Unlimited, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as part of their global A Safer World For The Truth project.

Journalist Hamid Mir, one of the panelists who joined the discussion virtually, cited the example of the people’s tribunal that was held at The Hauge earlier this year, which investigated unsolved murder cases of journalists from around the world. It included the case of Zubair Ahmed Mujahid, a Pakistani journalist who was murdered in Mirpur khas in 2007.

The panelists, including journalists Owais Tohid, Nazeer Laghari and Mehmal Sarfaraz, with Amber Rahim Shamsi moderating, also paid tribute to Arshad Sharif, who was brutally murdered in Kenya two months ago.  They opined that the situation had reached an alarming point where journalists were self-censoring. Lawyer Faisal Siddiqi, one of the panelists who recently filed a plea for a fresh murder investigation on behalf of Mujahid’s family, said that formation of judicial commissions and joint investigation teams in such matters are often an eyewash, with the perpetrators unlikely to be identified.  They cited the case of Zubair Mujahid, which has failed to identify a single suspect despite the passage of 15 years and multiple reinvestigations. Jos Bartman, a research coordinator for A Safer World for The Truth who joined the discussion virtually from Amsterdam, said that the FPU-led investigation found major deficiencies in the investigation with the police not considering his journalistic work as a motive for murder. The symposium included a documentary on Mujahid’s murder.

Journalist Munizae Jahangir, who also runs a digital platform, said that it was important to ask questions on the murder of journalists. She added that her platform documents those who file sedition cases against journalists and how it showed state complicity. “Everyone knows the nameless, faceless people behind the intimidation of journalist.”

The symposium was attended by journalists along with senior journalist Syed Talat Abbas VC All Pakistan Journalists Council, students and people from all walks of life, including French Consul General in Karachi Alexis Chahtahtinski as well as Sindh Information Minister Shajreel Inam Memon.

A vigorous discussion between journalists, representatives of press clubs and journalist unions, and advocates of press freedom at the Centre of Excellence in Journalist at the IBA, Karachi.


  1. Establish a ‘People’s Tribunal’ through the support of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Bordders (RSF) to hear cases of murdered journalists.
  2. Pressure the National Commission of Human Rights (NHCR) to exercise its magisterial powers in crimes against journalists.
  3. Form a three-way ‘permanent’ panel / committee – should include lawyer, HRCP, Bar Association & PFUJ. It should be a grievance review panel. The committee members should be rotated with further ToRs to be developed based on discussion with relevant stakeholders
  4. Pressure governments to institute insurance for journalists through press clubs
  5. Media houses should invest in staff security; put protocols and SOPs in place to be followed while covering a story, particularly when it’s a dangerous assignment
    1. They also need to consider post-production/publication situation review including any possible fallout and how to mitigate it
    2. “Cover the news. Don’t become the news.”
    3. Women have different challenges and their issues are not being taken up by unions or press clubs because there is minimal or no representation
  6. UJs, press club need to reorient its focus from journalists’ welfare to safety
    1. Some journalists believe representatives of UJs / press club are more interested in getting plots and favours instead of focusing on the safety of their colleagues
  7. Media organisations / UJs / press clubs should fix roles and responsibilities in terms of journalists’ protection
    1. Includes ensuring provision of health and life insurance for journalists
    2. Formalise a fall-back mechanism (safety net) for journalists in case of attack – recourse
  8. Provide training to jurists, police, lawyers pertaining to freedom of expression
  9. Inclusion of stakeholders – including government – in the prosecution of murders of journalists
  10. Make woman’s inclusion mandatory in the provincial and federal commissions for the protection of journalists
    1. Press clubs, UJs and media organisations need to conduct surveys to assess number of women in media
  11. Media organisations need to revisit their HR/Finance structure – particularly pertaining to salary and its timely disbursement, particularly to correspondents in small towns.
  12. Expediency and commitment on part of the government in addressing issues of journalists’ protection
    1. Mazhar Abbas cited that the Sindh cabinet has approved commission but not issued notification regarding the same despite the passage of 15 days
  13. The definition of ‘journalist’ and the issue of freelancers and YouTubers need consideration
    1. UJs need to ensure inclusion, training and access for freelancers
    2. YouTubers issue needs further deliberation and on what basis can they be considered journalists and provided support pertaining to freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.

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