Karachi: Of the scores of journalists that have been killed in Pakistan since the year 2002 only five deaths have been prosecuted. The vast majority have gone unpunished, due to a culture of fear and impunity, according to senior media professionals.

In 2014, when 14 journalists were killed, the International Federation of Journalists declared Pakistan the most dangerous place to practice journalism.

The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), an independent media development organization, says 72 journalists and media professionals have been killed in the line of duty since 2002.

The figure is more than double that, according to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), which believes more than 135 journalists have been killed over the same period.

One of the five cases to be prosecuted was that of Geo News TV reporter Wali Khan Babar who was murdered in Karachi in 2011 by activists of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political organisation.

“We were committed to bringing the killers of my brother to justice at all cost,” Murtaza Khan Babar, Wali’s elder brother, told Truth Tracker.

When Wali was assassinated, nobody dared to file charges against the MQM workers who were suspected of the crime.

“Most Karachiites were afraid of the two ‘As’ – Allah (God) and Altaf, the top leader of MQM. The scenario has changed now since the Rangers’ operation in the city,” Babar said.

“We decided to pursue the case even at the cost of our lives as we are Pakhtuns and we have deep-rooted traditions of honourable fighting and revenge against those who have wronged us.”

The killers of Wali Babar were arrested by the Sindh Police under the supervision of the then provincial Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza. They were convicted in March 2014.

Two of the convicted men were sentenced to death and four were sentenced to life in prison. Their appeal against the convictions is pending in the Sindh High Court.

The MQM leadership had initially denied affiliation with the accused, but later declared it a case of ‘political victimization.’

Khalid Khokhar, president of Hyderabad Union of Journalists and leader of the PFUJ said police and the government have not been supportive in dealing with the cases of slain journalists.

“Providing justice to the heirs is the prime responsibility of the state. But many cases of murdered journalists are not being properly pursued by the government,” Kokhar told Truth Tracker.

“Only five cases of slain journalists have successfully gone through the tedious process of gaining justice in Pakistan.”

The prosecuted cases include the 2002 murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal’s correspondent, Karachi’s Wali Khan Babar, Nisar Ahmed Solangi who was killed in June 2007 and whose killers were convicted in in 2012, Ayoub Khan Khattak, who was killed in October 2013 and whose killers were convicted in 2016, and Abdul Razaq Johra, who was killed in November 2008.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2013 which proclaimed November 2 as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’. The resolution urged the implementation of measures to counter the culture of impunity surrounding the killing of journalists.

According to senior journalists and experts, one of the main contributors to the prevailing situation of impunity in Pakistan is the traditional, informal jirga system of justice administered by tribal elders.

Four cases of murdered journalists were resolved through jirgas; Shahid Soomro in 2002, Ameer Bukhsh Brohi in 2003, Sajid Tanoli in 2004, and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman in 2010. The heirs of the journalists were pressured to reach unfair settlements.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO), over 700 journalists have been killed worldwide over the past decade.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) has launched a global campaign titled “No Impunity”.

Owing to the sensitivity of the issue, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on November 2, 2014, in his address, “No journalist anywhere should have to risk their life to report pertinent news. Together, let us stand for journalists – and stand for justice.”


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