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Shooting the Messenger

By Malik Siraj Akbar

The gory list of Baloch journalists being brutally killed presumably by the Pakistani intelligence agencies continues to increase with the latest brutal murder of Javed Naseer Rind. A former deputy editor of Urdu-language newspaper, Daily Tawar, and an articulate columnist, Rind was indeed a smart and professional journalist whose services and bold columns will be missed by his readers.

It took the young reporter’s captors less than a month to torture and murder him after his abduction on September 10th from Lasbela district. His bullet-riddled body was found in Khuzdar district. Daily Tawar and its reporters have paid an extraordinary price for accurately reporting the military operation in Balochistan and the violation of human rights for so many years.

Most journalists from Balochistan, mainly those affiliated with Daily Tawar, have demonstrated remarkable courage to report nothing but the truth from the restive province. Just like most of the professionally committed journalists, Mr. Rind surely knew he had chosen a very hard and risky profession in Balochistan. He will be remembered by his friends, family and professional colleagues as a champion of press freedom and a hardcore believer of Baloch national rights.

Journalism in Balochistan has become an extremely difficult job because of the wave of attacks on reporters from groups loyal or opposed to the government. This state of constant fear has not undermined the resolve of many journalists and media outlets in terms of reporting the truth. However, this has deprived the profession of the very basic role and responsibility it could have played had it been provided more democratic and tolerant space. When the state functionaries are blamed for such brutal killings of reporters then we are reminded of the State’s frustration and complete loss of confidence in its own system. As societies head toward anarchy, they invite more unrest and chaos by denying journalists their required work and breathing space.

It is heartening that Rind’s murder has at least drawn considerable international attention. The Baloch online activists, bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers can surely take credit for this against Pakistan’s pro-military and highly submissive media. The private news channels and most of the so-called mainstream national newspapers snubbed the killing because they do not attach as much value to the tragedy as they would have done if the same thing had happened in Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad. So, the only positive news at the moment is, the Baloch media, by the virtue of social media, has totally isolated the the pro-military local ‘national media’ and succeeded in conveying the real situation in Balochistan to the international organizations.

We highly appreciate the immediate reactions of the New York-based the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and its local partner, the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) also reacted on the right time.

In a statement, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said Rind’s “brutal death” is another indicator of the extreme danger journalists face from all parties in the province’s unrest… “CPJ joins with the Baluchistan Union of Journalists in condemning the kidnapping and murder of Javed Naseer Rind and calls for his journalism to be investigated as a motive for his murder.”

In a strongly-worded statement, Jacqueline Park, the Asia-Pacific Director of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), counted Balochistan as “statistically one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist” and urged the Pakistani authorities to “act swiftly to end this cycle of violence and impunity.”

We fully back the demand made by Essa Tareen, president of the BUJ, that the government should investigate the murder of Mr. Rind and all those correspondents in Balochistan have been slain on the line of duty. Besides this, the government should also provide compensation to killed reporters’ families.

This is a very tough time for the media in Balochistan. The local journalists had already been facing financial issues and inadequate job opportunities. The fresh tragic events have taken the challenge to a deadlier stage, further linking the noble profession of journalism to a point where the price of objective reporting is nothing but brutal death.

Besides the journalistic aspect, the provincial authorities have a responsibility to ensure the safety of reporters because they are, first of all, also citizens of the land who deserve legal protection. We hope someone in the government will stand up and stop the uncivilized cycle of violence against Balochistan’s media men.

MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR (Follow on Twitter: @MalikSirajAkbar)
The Baloch Hal
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Malik Siraj Akbar is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the Center for Public Integrity and is based in Washington, D.C. He founded and edits the online newspaper, The Baloch Hal.

Faiz Baluch