A man and his daughter ride a motorcycle past a burnt-out school bus after a gas cylinder on it exploded killing seventeen children on the outskirts of Gujrat, 170 km southeast of Islamabad, on Saturday.  Picture: REUTERS
A man and his daughter ride a motorcycle past a burnt-out school bus after a gas cylinder on it exploded killing seventeen children on the outskirts of Gujrat, 170 km southeast of Islamabad, on Saturday. Picture: REUTERS

PAKISTAN has for years been considered among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. More than 20 journalists have been murdered in reprisal for their work over the past decade but not one case has been solved. Between the various forces that hold sway in the country — from the state and political parties to the security establishment, as well as the militant/extremist network and crime rings — there exists a web of shifting alliances. They look away or collude to bury the cases of journalists being targeted, in order to suppress information.

A special report was published recently by the Committee to Protect Journalists. It illustrates in a chilling fashion "the culture of manipulation, intimidation, and retribution that has led to this killing spree (of journalists)". Members of this profession are targeted by any quarter that feels that too much information is being reported, with the persecutors even being affiliated with political parties, state-sponsored agencies and the military establishment.

Does the state have the will to ensure that journalists are in a position to operate without fear? Given the apathy towards cases involving journalists’ deaths, as well as the indications that state-sponsored agencies are involved in the harassment, it would appear not.

Karachi, May 27