International press freedom and media safety watchdogs agree that Pakistan has become one of the deadliest countries for journalists. Organisations such as Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, IFEX and Reporters sans Frontières share concerns about the worsening security for journalists in Pakistan. With the growing popularity and influence of private television channels, reporters are coming under increasing pressure from political and business interest groups, conservative religious groups and from militant extremists. In order to help these reporters to understand and cope with these pressures, the Pakistan Press Foundation in cooperation with Free Press Unlimited, has organised security training for reporters around the country.
Journalists in Pakistan unite
In another important innovation, a group of ‘Editors for Safety’ has been organised with the aim of getting the media industry as a whole to work together to counteract attacks on individual journalists. This initiative has had some important early successes. A local journalist was kidnapped from his house in November 2015 in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. The ‘Editors for Safety’ leapt into action. With one simple Whatsapp message, the news about the abduction went out to a group of editors all over Pakistan. In a matter of minutes a story that would usually go unnoticed became front page news and was broadcast on TV, radio, online and social media around the country. The abductors took fright and the journalist was back home within hours.
Together with local groups, Free Press Unlimited is contributing to safeguarding Pakistani journalists. Such initiatives mean that journalists in Pakistan can continue to work more safely and can continue to produce reliable news and keep citizens informed about crucial events in their society.