Press Freedom Day Must Recognize the Plight of Journalists in Balochistan
By Mir Behram Baloch
The United Nations General Assembly declared this day to remind governments about their obligation to respect the right of free expression.
However, when we observe Pakistan’s treatment of press freedom we find a bloody scenario, mainly, in Balochistan regarded as a battlefield for journalists.
Currently, Pakistan is being named a front-runner for violence against journalists, where journalists are facing life threats, attacks and extra-judicial murders in extreme cases.
Almost 70 journalists have been killed in the last six years in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, nearly 34 journalists killed were from Balochistan, the most agitated province of Pakistan, where Baloch nationalists are struggling politically and by means of armed struggle for their rights and ownership of natural resources. Right now, the profession of journalism has become a troubling field.
Young journalist Yousaf Ajab Baloch, editor-in-chief of the Balochistan Point, an English language online newspaper in Pakistan, has documented the murder of 33 journalist in his book: A Battle Field for Balochistan.
Regarding press freedom Yousaf in his book writes,
“Balochistan has been transformed into a battlefield for Baloch journalists in order to prevent them from covering unabated human rights violations in the province. The murder of Baloch journalists is an inordinate loss for Balochistan which can never be compensated. It is hard for journalists and activists of civil liberties to practice their responsibilities in Balochistan without any fear.”
On the international silence over crimes in Balochistan, Yousaf says,
“There are no reports about the cold blood murders of Baloch journalists and the silence of mainstream media organizations translates into endorsement of these undemocratic actions. It is surprising as why the international media or the champions of the balanced media in Pakistan have adopted a tacit role on the target killings of Baloch journalists so here the role of international media and journalist organizations becomes objectionable.”
Describing the government’s role, Yousaf states,
“It is obvious the government has failed to protect journalists. The failure of responsible authorities to protect journalists can easily be judged that more than 33 journalists have been target killed but none of the killers have been arrested nor government made any effort to arrest perpetrators.”
Irfan Saeed, the president of Balochistan Union of journalists said, “Now the situation is deterioration day by day, before there would be incidents of assaults on journalists on monthly or quarterly bases, however, now the occurrences take place weekly. We are compelled to continue the series of protests for safety of our fellows.”
Balochistan’s Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch vowed on January 19, 2014, to establish a judicial commission to probe the murder of different journalists across the province.
He also promised to provide financial assistance to the families of slain reporters. However, Kazim Mengal , the Reporter to BBC in capital city of Quetta said that many government committees and judicial commissions had been formed to ensure protection of reporters and journalists but no tangible measures were taken.
“The responsible authorities have not been able to make situation in favor of professionals to let them perform their duty smoothly,” said Mengal Rasheed Baloch, Bureau Chief of Vsh News, the first Balochi TV channel, said, “In Balochistan the Baloch journalists are in trouble compared to the other ethnic groups. In the last six years a large number of Baloch journalists have been killed. Not only has the government failed to ensure their safety, but has also failed to provide financial compensation to family victim journalists.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists has described Balochistan as the “epicenter of attacks on Pakistani press,” the far-flung areas of the province remain the lethal regions to report from. The current situation in Balochistan mirrors no existence of press freedom.
The lives of journalists are at risk if they apply journalistic ethics and do balanced reporting of the situation. However, the silence of the international media and media organizations in Pakistan over disappearances of Baloch journalists and their murder becomes objectionable