Pak media not free, journos not safe, says Reporters Sans Frontiers

Reporters Sans Frontiers, an international non-governmental organisationParis, Jan 10: The Reporters Sans Frontiers, an international non-governmental organisation devoted to freedom of press, has said that despite President Pervez Musharraf’s repeated assurances, the Pakistani media was not allowed to function freely ahead of the February 18 polls, and that it was being gagged by country’s military and civil authorities.

The international media body said that these (Pakistani) authorities often directly intervened with media executives and editors.

The international media body has identified five key problems being faced by the Pakistani press, like intimidation by police and government supporters, lack of personal safety, and censorship imposed by the print and broadcast media ordinances issued by the government from time to time.

The Pakistan government introduced a series of regulations drastically restricting the electronic media’s ability to cover the election campaign. Besides, journalists are exposed to great dangers, with the security forces being responsible for most of the violence, The News quoted the "Reporters Sans Frontiers" as saying.

Almost a month back, PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) had sent a letter to radio and TV station owners banning them from broadcasting news programmes and talk shows live and brandishing the threat of fines, prison sentences and bans for those stations which broadcast criticism of the government before the elections.

Expressing concern on the lack of journalists’ safety, the international media body said that six journalists were slain in suicide bombings in 2007, of whom one was a TV journalist who was killed in the first suicide bomb attack on Benazir Bhutto in Karachi. A cameraman was killed when the security forces stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

The media body described this as the "highest death toll" for the Pakistani press in past one decade. "Pakistan became the most dangerous Asian country for the media in 2007," the paper quoted it as saying.

Giving an account of incidents whereby journalists were gagged by Pakistani authorities, the media body said that at least 30 journalists were seriously injured in 2007, and at least 120 were arrested. Asserting that impunity prevails in most attacks on journalists, it said that there have been more cases of journalists being injured by police since the lifting of the state of emergency, notably on December 17, in Islamabad. (ANI)