Boston: Over 100 journalists from around the world have called on the government of Pakistan to end impunity and take action against those who are attacking, harassing, and intimidating journalists.
This was demanded by the journalists, who are signatories given below and Fellows at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, standing in solidarity with Absar Alam, Nieman Fellow 2005, who survived an armed attack in April this year. This is part of a pattern that rights bodies have documented, with several instances of journalists being attacked, tortured, killed, and disappeared in Pakistan in the recent past.
Nieman Fellows from around the world, ranging from the class of 1967 to the recently graduating class of 2021, as well as three Nieman Foundation Curators or directors, have endorsed the statement below.
An alarming surge in attacks on journalists in Pakistan has shocked the media community in the country and caused concern among journalists everywhere.
The journalists said: “We Nieman Fellows around the world condemn the assassination attempt on our colleague Absar Alam, Nieman Fellow 2005, a senior journalist and former Chairman Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority.”
“On 20 April 2021, while he was walking in the park near his home in Islamabad, an armed assailant fired at him. The gunshots caused injuries from which he is still recovering. Alam is known for speaking truth to power. The police have yet to arrest the criminals who masterminded the assassination attempt or the attacker.”
Barely a month later, three armed men barged into the apartment of vlogger Asad Toor in Islamabad and severely beat him. Although clearly visible in CCTV footage, they have yet to be apprehended.
Last July, unidentified men kidnapped senior freelance journalist Matiullah Jan outside his wife’s place of work, also in the country’s capital Islamabad. They drove him to an unknown place and tortured him, releasing him 12 hours later after international outcry.
These are just a few incidents over the past year alone. Rights bodies have documented several instances of journalists being attacked, tortured, killed, and disappeared in Pakistan in the recent past and called for the government to take action.
The journalists said: “We urge the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan to arrest and prosecute the criminals involved in these attacks and kidnappings. The government of Pakistan must ensure the safety of all journalists and eliminate this culture of impunity that has rendered Pakistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.”
The signatory journalists from US, UK, Canada, Pakistan and other countries are Owais Aslam Ali, Nieman Fellow 2002, Secretary General, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF); Bill Kovach, Robert Giles, Ann Marie Lipinski, Zawwar Hasan, Philip Meyer, Alvin Shuster, formerly with New York Times, and Los Angeles Times; Beena Sarwar, freelance journalist, Boston/Karachi, Nirupama Subramanian, The Indian Express, Mumbai; Claudia Antunes, Brazil; Chris Cobler, Altin Raxhimi, Canada; Taghreed El Khodary, Holland; Kim Cloete, Cape Town; Margaret Kriz Hobson, Sue Valentine, London; Bert Lindler, Montana, Vidya Krishnan, India; Jeb Sharp, Boston; Yasmin Amer, USA; Kitty Eisele, Washington; Bukola Adebayo, Senior producer CNN Africa, Rema Nagarajan, Times of India; Amber Payne, Nieman Fellow 2021, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Ines Pohl, Elaine Díaz Rodríguez, Cuba; Laura Eggertson, Melissa Ludtke, Anita Harris, Gaiutra Bahadur, New Jersey, Kalpana Jain, Liz Mineo, Ignacio Gómez, Colombia; Lois Fiore, Stefanie Friedhoff, USA; Phillip Martin, Martha Bebinger, Subina Shrestha, Darcy Frey, Nathan Payne, Indira Lakshmanan, Washington; Santiago Lyon, New York; Ashwaq Masoodi, Kashmir; Andras Petho, Hungary; Stefan Candea, Romania; Michael Fitzgerald, Gary Knight, Selymar Colón, Doug Struck, Joshua Benton, Robert Chaney, Helen Branswell, Boston, Shalini Singh, India; Brent Walth, and others.