Death of Pakistani journalist raises questions about his safety

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The death of a 40-year-old TV personality while on assignment in Pakistan has raised concerns about the safety of journalists there, the working conditions they face and the risks they take to get the story.

Lahore city Channel 5 reporter Sadaf Naeem was killed on Sunday while covering a convoy taking former Prime Minister Imran Khan from Punjab province to Islamabad for a political march.

His funeral and burial took place on Monday in Lahore.

Witnesses say Naeem was trying to climb onto a container truck carrying Khan when she apparently lost her footing and fell to the ground, where she was crushed. Khan expressed his condolences to Naeem’s family.

Although the exact cause of the fatal fall is still not known, journalists and experts are expressing concern about the harsh conditions in which many Pakistani journalists work, sometimes without proper training or safety equipment, or in hostile environments.

In an interview with VOA, Naeem Bhatti, the journalist’s husband, called his wife’s death an accident and made the decision to forgo an autopsy.

Naeem’s family and friends described her death as “the personal loss of a young and dynamic journalist”.

The Pakistani federal government and provincial government have announced that Naeem’s family will be financially compensated but no investigation into his death will be conducted as his death was reported as an accident.

Prominent journalist Mazhar Abbas, however, said that while it is imperative to thoroughly investigate Naeem’s death, it is also important to examine the circumstances that lead journalists to work in dangerous situations without being sufficiently prepared. .

“Although some media organizations provide basic safety training for journalists, all media organizations should provide safety training for their employees,” he said. “There have been several incidents in the past where journalists lost their lives” or were physically injured while reporting from the field.

Iqbal Khattak, the head of Freedom Network, a Pakistan-based media watchdog, said: “We need to know the reasons that caused his death and whether there were proper safety precautions for journalists covering the long walk.

According to Freedom Network data, since 1990 more than 140 journalists have been killed and 65% of those victims have been targeted. The organization’s findings also show that in recent years many journalists have lost their jobs after criticizing government policies.

Khattak added that journalists must be told “loudly” that they must take all necessary precautions when covering any event or incident.

In December 2021, Pakistan passed a landmark law – the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act – to ensure the safety of journalists. The law is supposed to provide a safety mechanism for journalists, but according to Khattak, it has not yet been put into effect because the commission supposed to oversee the application of the law has not been set up.

This story originated in VOA’s Urdu service.

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