Opinion about journalists’ safety at international level

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Saddia Mazhar:
Islamabad: “Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth,” dictum of Albert Camus, is a torchbearer for journalists finding a way to search, struggle and campaign for the truth. The entire world celebrate ‘World Press Freedom Day’ and we Pakistanis are stuck in the
dilemma of journalistic freedom and protection where either journalists are unable to earn suitable living or are being killed or kidnapped in the wake of speaking truth.
According to Reporters without Borders (RWB), Pakistan ranked 139 out of 180 in the world press freedom index. “There are fatal attacks on journalists every year, though the number has dropped for the past four years,” this report says. The past 15 years have witnessed the killings of at least 117 journalists. And reporting of just three out of these 117 killings in the judicial courts gives an insight to the culture of impunity present in our country. Pakistan, from last many years is struggling to come out terrorism and extremism, should understand that freedom of speech is the true essence of democracy. That is why, there’s an utter need to develop an appropriate working and living environment for journalists as they’re the source for providing a voice to public. Protection of journalists is a necessary step to guarantee free speech. Freedom of speech is a tool that ensures sustainable growth and adheres to the true spirit of democracy. Information minister , Mr. Fawad Chuhdary in his recent statement talked about preparing the
laws for protection and welfare of journalists in the country. Although it is the right step towards ensuring in strengthening the democracy, but making laws can protect journalists from threats and fear of joblessness.
The safety of journalists, media workers, and human rights defenders should be ensured on priority basis as nothing is more important than protecting a human life. In the past decade more than 1,000 media persons have been killed worldwide. Unfortunately, most of them were the victims of targeted killings.
It is time for the United Nations to force its member states to take all possible measures to bring their domestic media-related laws into line with international standards. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution No. 1738 in 2006 to establish a coherent, action- oriented approach to the safety of journalists in conflict zones. But it is unfortunate to note that hardly any action has been taken by the UN against a member state for violating this resolution. Suspicious killing of  Saudi journalist ‘Jamal Khashoggi’ has highlighted the issues related to journalists security ,their well beings and even survival at international forums especially UN ,EU and US. After this incident journalists are demanding that their should be a defined international
norms and laws through which they can exercise their freedom of expression.
A special prosecutor was appointed in Mexico a few years back to control crimes against the media, but they need to improve their performance. A journalist protection bill was introduced in
the Iraqi parliament too but this law failed to offer any meaningful protection to journalists. The National Union of Journalists in India is also demanding special laws for the protection of journalists.
Member states of the UN should legislate to guarantee media freedom, including freedom of expression and freedom of opinion. The drafting and application of such laws should take due account of the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression. Journalists should have the right to protect their sources.
? Governments should link the placing of official advertisements with media houses to their provision of high-quality safety measures for their workers.
? Media organisations should be made to ensure that the journalists who are working in conflict areas have full life insurance which covers illness, repatriation, disability and loss of life. There is a long history of kidnapping and lynching of journalists, lawyers and human rights
activists. 2017 have witnessed mass incidents of abductions, raising a question on the state’s performance to protect its citizens. Media persons and houses are not only on the target of non- state actors, but are also prone to the pitfalls of left and right-wing media bias accompanied with poor working conditions and institutional corruption. In this age of globalization, free media is the only factor that ensures a healthy democracy and this end could be met with utmost protection and freedom of journalists. It’s good on part of the government to introduce bills and laws to protect journalists, but these small bandages are not enough to mend the wounds. Law and order needs to be restored.

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