Journalism often referred to as the “Fourth Estate“, is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. Basically, it is the product of the news. It is the cornerstone of democracy. A well-informed society is a prerequisite for a functioning democracy. That’s why journalism is so important. It allows citizens to make informed decisions about the policies that affect their lives. As much as Journalism is important, it also faces severe criticism and is considered a crime nowadays. Journalists in Pakistan are shot dead or abducted as they are committing a crime. Therefore, the time has come to tell the world that Journalism is not a crime.
Importance of the Fourth Estate
Journalism is essential for a variety of reasons;
- It keeps people informed about what is happening in the world around them. In a complex and increasingly globalized society, it is important to be aware of the happenings beyond one’s immediate community.
- Journalism plays an important role in holding those in power accountable.
- It helps to foster a well-informed citizenry, which is essential for the functioning of any democracy.
- Journalism plays an important role in holding those in power accountable. Journalists are critical in keeping elected officials and government agencies honest at the local news, state, or national levels.
- Journalism is often referred to as the “Fourth Estate,” indicating its importance in society. In many ways, journalism acts as a check on those who wield power.
- When news organizations uncover corruption or wrongdoing, the public is made aware of it and can take action. For example, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s reporting exposed the Watergate affair. As a result of their reporting, President Nixon was forced to resign from office.se who wield power.
- Journalism helps citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions about their government and leaders.
- The Panama Papers showed how world leaders and wealthy business elites used offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. Likewise, the Paradise Papers revealed how multinational corporations used loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
- In recent years, journalism has come under attack but its role as a watchdog for the people remains essential. In a world where fake news and misinformation abound, journalism is important in ensuring that the truth is out there.
Problems faced by Journalists
Journalists around the world are facing difficult situations while pursuing their careers. The situation of journalists in Pakistan is not different. One of the biggest challenges they confront is that their organizations don’t provide them with enough security and incentives. Journalism in Pakistan is a crime and journalistic life is always at high risk. In the line of duty, journalists face threats of assassination, torture, and physical assault. Almost all society’s stakeholders remain mum over grave situations wherein journalists are helpless, ill-equipped, and insecure, especially in job satisfaction. The number of affected journalists especially the death toll is rising with each passing day.
The index of victimization of journalists over the past decade has been high. Pakistan is the 4th dangerous country for journalists, ranking 147th position on the World Press Freedom Index. The country is even inferior to India, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Thailand, and Palestine.
Two thousand journalists have experienced harassment, kidnapping, arrest, detention, assault, and injury since January 2000. The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Civic Action Resources and Freedom Network recorded 125 cases every year for 16 years. An estimate says 130 journalists were killed in Pakistan since 1947, and over 100 since 2000. The confounding average for the last 16 years says a journalist is killed every 58 days (PFUJ, 2018). States use corporate influence, government pressure, threat, and political control to hinder media freedom to act as a fourth pillar. In places like Baluchistan, 29 journalists were killed since 2007. Similarly in, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and the tribal areas in Pakistan 27 journalists were killed from 2003 to 2014.
Journalism: A crime in Pakistan
At least 33 journalists were murdered in Pakistan for their journalism work during the past six years. Every year, we observe the “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” on November 2. It’s a day to remember journalists killed while performing their jobs and the impunity of such murders in many countries.
The report titled “100% Impunity for Killers, 0% Justice for Pakistan’s Murdered Journalists: Crime and Punishment in Pakistan’s Journalism World” issued a “Pakistan Impunity Scorecard” which reveals these statistics. In the case of the seven journalists murdered in Pakistan in the past year (between November 2018 and October 2019), FIRs were registered in all seven cases, but a charge sheet was filed by the police in only four cases (57%). None of these seven cases reached the critical stage where the courts could hand a verdict and provide justice.
According to Freedom Network, the impunity enjoyed by the killers of journalists in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world. Let us look at the bigger picture. A total of 32 FIRs were registered for the murder of 33 journalists during the period 2013-19, of which the police could file the challan (charge sheet) in only 20 cases — or in 60% of cases. Out of 33 cases, the courts declared only 20 cases fit for trial (60%) of which prosecution and trial were completed in only six cases — only 18%. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says “impunity” in the cases of murdered journalists remains “firmly entrenched” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and 10 other countries across the world.
International Press Institute (IPI) released a statement in connection with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The statement said that democracies around the world were failing to protect journalists and investigate killings and crimes against them.
Attacks on Journalists in Pakistan
A recent series of attacks on journalists who criticize the Pakistan government is a serious concern.“The frequency with which journalists are being attacked in Pakistan is appalling,” said Brad Adams.
On May 25, 2021, Asad Ali Toor, was assaulted by three unidentified men who forcibly entered his apartment in Islamabad. They bound and gagged Toor and severely beat him. Toor said they claimed to be from a security agency, interrogated him about his “funds,” and took away his phone.
On April 20, an unidentified assailant shot and wounded Absar Alam, a television journalist, outside his house in Islamabad. Absar Alam has been a prominent critic of the government.
On July 21, 2020, an unidentified assailant abducted another journalist, Matiullah Jan. He was abducted for “maligning the institution of judiciary.” It was the day before he was to appear before the Supreme Court. Jan was released after a few hours. He alleged the abduction was an attempt to intimidate him. A criminal case was registered for Jan’s abduction, but no suspects have been arrested. Pakistani journalists have long faced serious obstacles, including harassment, intimidation, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention, abduction, and death. As these threats have escalated, Pakistani authorities have also increasingly pressured editors and media owners to shut down critical voices.
Another recent example of crimes against journalists is brutal killing of Pakistan’s renowned Investigative Journalist, Arshad Sharif Shaheed, in Kenya. Sharif fled Pakistan due to sedition charges against him for criticizing state institutions and “abetting mutiny” within the military. “Sharif’s death has robbed the media fraternity globally of a dedicated and forthright journalist,” FPA Africa said in a statement.
Journalism cannot be stifled in this manner. Corruption and wrongdoing need to be exposed. The media is the most important pillar of any democracy. For it to function effectively, media persons need to be assured of their safety. Our Judicial system needs to be awakened to provide justice to journalists. They also need to perform their duties in a better way.
If this is not done — as we are seeing in practice, the country will suffer as a consequence. It is high time Journalism should not be treated as a crime, as Pakistan cannot afford it.