Pakistan government must investigate killings and abductions of journalists, says UN

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The United Nations (UN) on Friday called on the government of Pakistan to investigate numerous killings and abductions, particularly of journalists.

“In the past eight days alone we have received reports on the killing of one journalist, Munir Shakir, in Balochistan on August 14 2011, and the disappearance of another journalist, Rehmatullah Daparkhel, three days earlier in North Waziristan on August 11,” said spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, nine journalists have been killed in Pakistan this year, and at least 16 were killed in 2010. None of the killings had been investigated satisfactorily, Colville said.

Colville said that the UN would like to see the government review all of the incidents. “We call on all responsible parties to immediately stop such violations of human rights, and we urge the government to take immediate steps to independently investigate these cases,” he said.

Amnesty International has also urged the government of Pakistan to ensure the protection of journalists and media workers in the country. They have further called upon the Pakistani authorities to investigate attacks on journalists and to try those responsible in line with internationally recognised standards of human rights.

Colville said that the recent attacks on journalists were not uncommon in Pakistan and that many journalist groups regard the country as one of the most dangerous places to work.

Shakir was shot dead after covering a protest organized by a Baloch separatist organization. Irshad Matsoi, the bureau chief for the Online News Network where Shakir worked, said that the killing was linked to the journalist’s work. Journalism in Balochistan is becoming “an endangered profession,” Matsoi said.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) have appealed for punishment of those responsible for the murder. According to RWB, journalists do not feel free to report in Balochistan, which has led to self-censorship in the region.

The whereabouts of Daparkhel, kidnapped on August 11, is still unknown. The worldwide press freedom organization said that the government must do everything they can to find him immediately. “It is unacceptable that local journalists have to do the job of the police and investigate on their own using their contacts,” the organization said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the incidents. “There is a growing sense of insecurity among media persons who increasingly interpret each attack on journalists as a warning to ‘behave,’” the HRCP said last Monday. The HRCP also said that in almost all cases of violence against journalists in the last few years, those responsible have not been identified or punished.

“The HRCP calls upon the government to respond through effective action and not mere words in the next few days, sending a strong message to the mischief makers that it would no longer stand by as a mere spectator as journalists are killed and snatched,” the Commission said.