Target Killings of Journalists

Sindh, in particular, stands out with the highest incidence of targeted killings of journalists compared to other provinces.

Recently, a brave Sindhi journalist, Nasrullah Gadani from Ghotki was shot and injured in a gun attack in his district a few days ago. The brutal incident happened when Gadani was on his way to Mirpur Mathelo Press Club from his home. An unknown armed man opened direct fire at him and fled away. The journalist was first taken to Mirpur Mathelo DHQ Hospital for prompt medical aid, then transferred to Shaikh Zayed Hospital Raheem Yar Khan for surgery. However, due to his worsening critical condition, he was later shifted to Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. Shaheed Nasrullah Gadani succumbed to his injuries and passed away on May 24, 2024.

Mr. Gadani not only served the Sindhi newspaper Awami Awaz, but he also remained a bold and brave voice of criticism against the feudal lords and elected representatives in Sindh. His news reports consistently exposed these so-called feudals and politicians involved in crimes in the Kutcha (riverine wetlands) areas. This was what Mr. Gadani was known for. A very clear example of his outspoken stance against feudal and influential persons is the slogan “Bhotar, My Foot! (feudal under my foot)” imprinted on his motorbike. This slogan is now trending on social media as a demonstration of public anger and anguish from Sindh and across the country. The imprint of this slogan on his motorbike showcases how boldly Mr. Gadani chose to spread awareness regarding the role of feudal lords of providing shelter to criminals, particularly in the Kutcha areas. These feudal lords are often shareholders in the economy generated through illegal means, mainly earned from the huge sale and purchase of guns and modern weaponry from the Kutcha.

Sindh has not forgotten the grief of the brutal murders of renowned journalists Jan Muhammad Mahar and Ghulam Asghar Khand, who were eaten by the bullets last year in the same month in Sukkur and Khairpur. Both murder mysteries are yet to be solved, with the perpetrators still facing neither any action nor strict sentences.

In these circumstances, another heart-wrenching killing of Mr. Gadani clearly illustrates a project of target killing of journalists, aimed not only at suppressing the voice of people but also at eliminating those who expose feudal lords involved in crimes. Every new dawn now brings the corpse of another journalist, particularly those who critique those in power for intentionally failing to serve the public and instead helping criminals in holding the territories.

Ironically, this year, while the world was commemorating International Press Freedom Day, Mr. Moulana Siddique, President of Khuzdar Press Club, was killed in a car bombing. Arshad Sharif’s unsolved case still has a winding plot around the targeted killings of journalists. Journalism plays a pivotal role in the sustainability of democracy by providing the public with accurate facts and information while holding those in power accountable.

Condemnations, inefficient JITs, and a dramatic series of inquiries or sou moto actions ordered by executives or superior Judiciary have now been normal practice in Pakistan. However, no notable advancements have been reported thus far. Sindh, in particular, stands out with the highest incidence of targeted killings of journalists compared to other provinces. This poses a significant concern for press freedom and freedom of speech

There are severe reasons behind the failure to prosecute the killers of journalists in Pakistan. Some of them may include an outdated criminal justice system with no reformation, lack of political interest, corruption, inequality, constitutional crisis, absence of legislation, and poverty. The majority of such cases go unsolved, and murderers go unpunished, further fueling potential increases in such incidents. Unsolved cases create the impression that journalists are becoming examples of ‘shut up or be killed’ by unknown gunmen appearing again and again. Every killing of a journalist is a direct strike at the heart of press freedom and the right of freedom of expression, which is a violation of fundamental human rights ensured in Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Despite the ‘Sindh Protection of Journalists and other Media Practitioners Act 2021’ passed by the Sindh Assembly and the ‘Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021’ by the National Assembly, Pakistan is unable to stop such killings. Rather, an alarming increase has been witnessed, exposing the failure of such legislature to protect journalists

Becoming a journalist in Pakistan means living under constant threats, but speaking the truth as a journalist means risking one’s life. Exposing those in power is a death sentence for journalists. This is the grim reality of press freedom and journalism in Pakistan.

Coping with censorship imposed by the state is the biggest challenge faced by journalists. However, the recent surge in targeted killings of journalists based on their work, caste, creed, nationality, and political, or religious opinions is another havoc for them which is not only eating their lives but also the press freedom and free speech.

The heinous killing of brave journalist Nasrullah Gadani is not only a blatant violation of the law and constitution but also an act of terrorism that must be met with the full force of the law to deter future attacks by effectively punishing the culprits. Otherwise, democracy may not survive in its true sense if the media is chained and the press is not free because it is imperative that democracy depends upon freedom of the press. Therefore, ensuring protection for journalists has now become a more than a fundamental right, so that the loss of any more brave journalists like Mr. Gadani can be prevented.

Muneer Hussain
The writer is a law undergrad at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law (SZABUL) Karachi. He can be reached at muneerhussain.szabul@gmail.com.

The writer is a law undergrad at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law (SZABUL) Karachi. He can be reached
at muneer
hussain.szabul
@gmail.com.

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