‘Surviving the Story’ highlights Pakistani journalists’ plight


ISLAMABAD: Government should partner with media organisations to encourage and institutionalise life and health insurances for journalists, emerged as a key recommendation of the field study report and the documentary ‘Surviving the Story’, released at the National Press Club (NPC) on Monday.

The report and the documentary are jointly produced by the Communications Research Strategies (CRS) and JournalismPakistan.com.

‘Surviving the Story’ highlights the plight of Pakistani journalists and their families in the wake of serious financial, security and professional challenges faced by them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been the area of focus for this report and the documentary as it has the highest number of cases of journalists losing their lives or being threatened to leave their area.

It urges all the stakeholders including professional journalists, press clubs, unions, government, media owners, civil society and international bodies to come together to streamline media practices in Pakistan by redressing the foremost issue of financial security that the journalist community in Pakistan faces.

‘Surviving the Story’ has documented the cases of the families of five journalists killed by miscreants, and of five others who had to leave after being threatened by the militants.

Those who laid their lives in the line of duty are Saleem Tahir (D.I.Khan), Musa Khankhel (Swat), Azmat Ali Bangash (Peshawar), Fazal Wahab (Swat) and Hayatullah Khan (North Waziristan). The families of these slain journalists received either little or no compensation.

The other five journalists who came under deadly attacks and were forced to shift to safer areas to protect themselves and their families are Anwar Shakir (South Waziristan), Adnan Bhitani (Tank), Abu Zar Afridi (Khyber Agency), Haji Pajir Gul (North Waziristan) and Sahibzada Bahauddin (Bajaur Agency).

The Journalist Panel chairman and former president of the National Press Club, Farooq Faisal while speaking at the occasion said that the report and the documentary ‘Surviving the Story’ will be a good addition to the Resource Centre at the National Press Club, established to help build a professional capacity of journalists.

He pointed out that journalists had not forgotten their colleagues who lost their lives and referred to a recent addition of a monument at NPC to honor them. He said that documenting the issues related to the wider question of journalists’ security and safety was an important step for continuing to work for journalist’s rights.

“It is painful when a journalist becomes a story,” said Aniq Zafar, the chief executive officer of CRS while addressing the launching ceremony, adding that “it is even painful to see that anybody hardly cares.”

Zafar said that some progress has been made by training journalists on physical safety, but the economic aspect remains far from hitting the spotlight.

“There is no mechanism for the disbursement of funds available with relevant departments and organisations when it comes to the families of those journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of reporting the truth,” said Zafar.

‘Surviving the Story’ aims to bring all key stakeholders together to highlight the economic aspect of journalists’ security, particularly after an event of death or displacement. In the light of the report, the key recommendations would be put forth to policymakers, he added.

Myra Imran, the researcher of the study said that ‘Surviving the Story’ cited relevant findings of credible journalist bodies to note that Pakistan is fourth among the deadliest countries in the world after Mexico, the Philippines and Iraq.  She said that 2,297 journalists were killed across the globe including 115 in Pakistan since 1990. As many as 17 journalists were injured from December 2016 to February 2017 in various incidents, while eight received verbal death threats.

Imran stressed that any mechanisms to be developed to support the families of the martyred journalists had to factor in the gender aspect. Access to females in the families of martyred journalists was a major challenge, and it affects how any assistance fails to reach the deserving.

The National Press Club president, Shakeel Anjum said that when a government employee retires or dies after remaining in the service for a certain number of years, he or she is entitled to pension and other benefits. When a journalist dies or retires, there is nothing. Anjum appreciated the efforts of CRS and JournalismPakistan.com to produce what he said is an “in-depth study and an eye-opening documentary” to highlight the problems of the slain and displaced journalists in Pakistan.

“Together, we will defeat these challenges,” he vowed.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president, Afzal Butt suggested that regulatory departments like PEMRA and ABC should be empowered to bind the print and electronic media to submit insurance certificates and regular salary payment certificates of their employees at the time of the renewal of their respective licenses.