(CPJ/IFJ/IFEX) - 1 June 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty-four IFEX members signed on to the following letter expressing deep concerns for the safety and welfare of journalists and media workers in Pakistan:
Mr Asif Ali Zardari
Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
Fax: +92 51-2202835
Mr Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Prime Minister's House
Fax: +92 51-9214172
Mr Rehman Malik
Minister for Interior
R Block, 4th Floor
Fax: +92 51-9212718
Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan
Minister for Information and Broadcasting
Cabinet Block, 4th Floor
Fax: +92 51-9203740
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Chief of Army Staff
c/- The Director-General
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR)
Hilal Road, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Dear Mr President, Honourable Ministers and General Kayani,
We, the undersigned members and partners of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), are writing with respect to express our deep concerns for the safety and welfare of journalists and media workers in Pakistan.
Representing the international community of journalists' organisations and press freedom defenders gathered in Lebanon for IFEX's bi-annual conference, we urge the Government of Pakistan and its law-enforcement and security agencies to take immediate and firm action to implement all appropriate measures to protect media personnel and to prosecute murderers of journalists in Pakistan.
In 2011, the tragic toll of dead and injured journalists and media workers placed Pakistan ahead of Iraq and Mexico as the world's most dangerous country for journalists and media workers.
The killings have continued into 2011, with at least three journalists murdered in targeted attacks, including the killing of Nasrullah Afridi in Peshawar on May 10 and Syed Saleem Shahzad, whose body was found just yesterday.
We are deeply disturbed by Shahzad's brutal murder, following his abduction in Islamabad on May 29. We note reports by Human Rights Watch that the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may have been involved in his disappearance. We also note the potential connection between Shahzad's murder and an article he published on May 27 about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Navy officials. We appeal to the Government of Pakistan and its security agencies to move with utmost urgency to identify Shahzad's killers and bring to them to justice.
We fully appreciate the great difficulties confronting all people in Pakistan at this time. However, we also know that Pakistan has the resources and expertise to conduct credible investigations into murders of journalists and to bring culprits to justice.
Yet this is not happening and a culture of impunity prevails. Of all the murders of journalists in Pakistan over many years, the identification and prosecution of culprits has occurred only once in recent memory - in the internationally high-profile case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
Pakistan's law-enforcement authorities and security agencies at the provincial and federal levels have consistently failed to show the will to conduct full and proper investigations into all other murders of journalists in Pakistan.
Just a few examples where reports of investigations into murders are long overdue include the following:
- Hayatullah Khan, murdered, June 2006 in North Waziristan, after being abducted in December 2005.
- Allah Noor, murdered, Wana, February, 2005.
- Chishti Mujahid, murdered, February 2008, Quetta.
- Abdul Razzak Johra, murdered, Mianwali district, Punjab, November, 2008.
- Musa Khan Khel, murdered, Swat, February 2009.
The highly publicised investigation carried out by Peshawar High Court Judge Mohammed Reza Khan shortly after the killing of Hayatullah Khan has never been made public, despite repeated calls from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and international media support groups.
In April 2009, the PFUJ and its district affiliates urged your Government to set up a judicial commission to investigate the murder of Khan Khel. This followed an independent investigation by the Khyber Union of Journalists and the PFUJ after local authorities failed to initiate their own inquiry. We await results in this case.
In early 2010, the then Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Sumsam Ali Bukhari, acknowledged that Pakistan's authorities and Interior Ministry had a responsibility to identify and arrest suspects. He gave an assurance to PFUJ members that the Sindh Government had been instructed to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of Ashiq Ali Mangi in Khairpur, Sindh province, in February 2010. We await results in this case.
With respect, we remind you that your Government has a responsibility to protect and defend the rights of journalists and the media, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738.
As a signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and to the 1997 Additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), the Government of Pakistan and its security forces are obliged to ensure the protection of journalists as civilians.
Article 13 of Protocol II states: "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited."
The 2006 Security Council Resolution, which stresses the civilian status of journalists reporting in war zones and crisis areas within national borders, stipulates: ". . . that all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel."
Under the laws of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments have a duty to require that law enforcement and security authorities utilise appropriate and transparent policing and judicial means to fully investigate all murders and disappearances of journalists.
We fully support the PFUJ in its recent request to Minister Malik to initiate and oversee a comprehensive inquiry and report into the killings of journalists in all of Pakistan's provinces. We look forward to full public disclosure of all evidence and official records.
We further call on you to work with the PFUJ and Pakistani and international media support groups to establish an independent taskforce to act promptly on the findings of the Malik inquiry, including through the pursuit of full and proper investigations and prosecutions of cases.
Again, we respectfully request that you use your authority to reverse the culture of impunity and act on the grave concerns held by the international community of journalists and press freedom defenders for the welfare of our colleagues in Pakistan.
In the absence of investigations and the prosecution of offenders, the State is failing to provide the necessary deterrent to those who would use violence to silence and intimidate journalists and restrict the right of all people in Pakistan to information.
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@) cpj.org
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
Phone: +32 2 2352207
Fax: +32 2 2352219
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance of Independent Journalists)
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre for Independent Journalism
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Free Media Movement
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Center
Index on Censorship
IPS Communication Foundation
Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation)
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
National Union of Somali Journalists
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Public Association "Journalists"
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
South East European Network for the Professionalization of the Media
Thai Journalists Association
NON-IFEX MEMBER SIGNATORIES:
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ)