13 December, 2011

‘No story is worth dying for’

Journalists safety must be top priority 

Sana Jamal


Islamabad – Safety of journalists should be the top priority for media industry as well state institutions to ensure the freedom of media in Pakistan. Speakers warned that competitive pressures can force reporters to take unnecessary risks, but journalists must remember a cardinal rule of journalism: no story is worth dying for. This consensus emerged on the concluding day of international conference on ‘Media and Professionalism: Keeping Journalists and Journalism Safe in Hostile Environments’. 

At the final session, a joint declaration was passed which stressed that new reforms should be introduced by PFUJ, APNS and CPNE to make safety of journalists a top obligation. Key speakers at the conference, organised by the Intermedia Pakistan, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), were Finn Rasmussen, representative of International Media Support (IMS); I. A. Rehman, rights activist; Adnan Rehmat, Director at Intermedia and Amir Rana, Director at PIPS. 

Rehman Malik, federal minister for Interior, speaking at the conference announced that his ministry would setup “a special section for media to look after the interests and safety of journalists in Pakistan.” He also offered all possible cooperation from government to journalists. Malik noted that quest for breaking news was one the major reasons behind the death of most of the media practitioners who lost their lives in the performance of duty. To ensure the safety of journalists, he urged that media organizations should send only experienced and trained journalists to hot spot. Speaking at the seminar, Uffe Wolffhechel, Danish Ambassador said that “only a secure environment can promote freedom of media in Pakistan” and Danish government is committed to support free media in Pakistan and added that it is the duty of state and media houses to provide safety to journalists.

“Nothing will change unless all media associations work together to improve standards of journalism in Pakistan” cautioned Adnan Rehmat, adding that Pakistan’s leading journalist association PFUJ and CPNE are hesitant when it comes to reformation as its by-laws have been amended only twice in last 40 years.

“We don’t need a new code of ethics, but need a new strategy to implement existing moral codes” pointed out one of the foreign speakers. He also suggested that the death of each journalist should be followed through a media campaign.

Speaking at the seminar, Matiullah Jan, a veteran journalist said that “most of Pakistani journalists cover conflicts without proper training for dangerous encounter,” and stressed that hostile environment training and in-depth preparation are key steps to keep journalists safe.

A known rights activist, I. A. Rehman said that journalists often become the target while reporting on a disputed issue, and suggested that media practitioners should make efforts to minimize risk in conflict zones to the extent possible. It was noted at the seminar that over 70 journalists have been killed since the year 2000, while a staggering 2000 plus have been injured, arrested or kidnapped.

At the seminar, participants also remembered the services of those journalists killed in the line of duty, including Javed Naseer Rind, Saleem Shahzad, Nasrullah Khan Afridi, Wali Khan Babar. The participants also demanded that government should investigate the cases of all journalists killed on duty.