A file picture of Pakistani journalists shouting slogans during a protest against the killing of a reporter, Hyderabad, Pakistan. EFE/EPA/FILE/NADEEM KHAWER

Media watchdog says 11 journalists killed in Pakistan in two years

Islamabad, Oct. 30 (EFE).- An independent media watchdog reported Monday that 11 journalists were killed while 248 incidents against journalists were recorded in Pakistan in two years, despite the parliament passing two landmark legislations to protect them.

The nonprofit Freedom Network released its annual report “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Pakistan Legislates on Safety of Journalists, But Still Fails to Protect Them,” ahead of the International Day to End Impunity falling on Nov. 2.

“Pakistan continues to record an alarming increase in persecution of journalists, especially by government authorities and state agencies, including kidnapping, physical assaults and serious legal cases against them including on unproven charges of sedition, treason and electronic crimes,” the report said.

It underlined that 93 out of a total 248 cases, or 37.5 percent, were recorded in Islamabad alone during the period between Aug-2021-Aug-2023, while Sindh registered the second worst numbers in Pakistan with 56 cases, or 22.5 percent.

Iqbal Khattak, executive director of Islamabad-based nonprofit Freedom Network, said that laws were there for the protection of journalists but were not fully implemented.

In 2021, Pakistan became the first country in the world to specifically legislate on the safety of journalists by passing two pivotal laws in this regard.

The Sindh province passed the Sindh Protection of Journalists and other Media Practitioners Act, 2021 and the central parliament passed the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021.

“These two laws are landmark when it comes to the safety of journalists in a country like Pakistan but there is no mechanism of implementing those laws,” Khattak told EFE on Monday.

In its annual report, Freedom Network said that despite passing laws, Pakistan was still failing to implement these legal safeguards to combat rising impunity of crimes against journalists.

“It is ironic that most attacks against journalists happened in this period in regions that legislated for their safety,” the report stressed.

Pakistan ranked 157 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index in 2021, before the laws were passed.

Although the country’s rank improved from 157 to 150 in 2023 due to the enactment of these laws, both the federal and Sindh governments were responsible for the defunctionalization of their own laws and therefore delaying and effectively denying justice to journalists, it added.

“It is very disturbing to see the good work of the two legislatures – the Sindh Assembly and the federal parliament – diluted by not making the laws fully operational to provide protection to journalists,” said Khattak. EFE