A Pashtu language News Channel, “AVT Khyber” has terminated the service of at least 10 journalists mostly were correspondent base in the former Tribal area of Pakistan due to not fulfilling the alleged illegal demands of the channel. Those whose services are terminated were included, Zafar Khan Correspondent of District South Waziristan Previously Known as south Waziristan Agency Tribal Area, Mr. Umer Diaz Khan correspondent at District Bannu, Mr. Amer Zada Correspondent at Sub District Jamrud Previously it was a part of Khyber Agency .Muhammad Yaqoob was also based at sub district Jamrud ,Mr. Zafar Iqbal Correspondent at Zohob district of Baluchistan Province, Mr. Umer Khaliq Correspondent at Jandol District Dir of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ,Nadir Khan was based at district Bhatt gram Hazara Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Gul Hameed correspondent at District Chitral of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Noor Bahram based at district North Waziristan previously known as North Waziristan Agency tribal area, and Mr. Shaheen Khan base at District Orakzai ,previously known as Orakzai Agency triable area. Currently, Out of 10, 9 Journalists are no more part of the AVT Khyber news channel, while one Journalist namely Mohammad Yaqoob correspondent at Jamrud was reinstated and informed him that his name was mistakenly published in the list of terminated Journalists. According to another report received form Jamrud press club that another journalist included the list Ameer Zada was left the news channel two years ago but still his name was also included in the list of terminated journalists, while Ameer Zada was immediately not available for comments .it’s worth mentioning to note that, the said News channel was famous for taking bribes from the politicians and other wealthy personalities in the name of commercials / advertisements and publicity. Before the recent general election there were strong rumors in the field and among the journalists community that ,AVT Khyber news instructed their all correspondents and reporters to bring advertisements/commercials or will get cash in the name of publicity .according to the Journalists, the administration of AVT Khyber forced their journalists employees to that every should bring from one to two million during the election campaign otherwise they face termination and after the election they did so . Noor Bahram, on the effect from district North Waziristan Agency has issued a press release on the social media refused to fulfill the illegal demand of the news channel and termed it professional dishonesty. In his statement, he categorically refused to become part of a yellow journalism. “I had two options either to take bribes for the channel or separate the path from this corrupt news channel, so I left the organization” He concluded. In his ordeal, Noor Bahram further revealed that before the election, an owner of the News Channel was issued an order which he was received through a Mobile SMS. The message was stated that, I Noor Bahram will collect from Rs. One million to two millions from all the candidates contesting election from North Waziristan and if he failed to do then he should ready for punishment. He said that before the administration of the organization took action against me, I left the organization. According to a rough estimate, there are 17 thousand journalists currently working with different print and electronic media outlets throughout the country. Majority of Pakistani journalists are working in very miserable condition. They are facing so many serious challenges including life threats, job security and monthly wages. Thousands of Pakistani journalists are not getting their wages in time, while thousands of them even do not provided proper appointment letter and they are being hired on contractual bases on fixed salaries with no job security. After 9/11 the profession of journalism became challengeable job. Different part of Pakistan including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, previously Tribal areas and Baluchistan was deadliest for the journalists and so far more than 100 journalists have been killed in the line of duty, while dozens of others have been attacked. No media outlet in Pakistan is ready to provide protection or safety training opportunity for their field reporters. Pakistani journalists are working in a very hostile situation facing the some following major problems;
Apart from other issues, Security is one of the major problems faced by the journalists across Pakistan. it shows that working as a journalists is more dangerous that doing any other job in different parts of the country. If we look the reports of international human rights and media organizations, Pakistan has already been declared one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world and its ranked on third number for the last three years. Over 100 journalists have been killed others tortured, harassed and abducted to stop them letting truth to the people.it is the duty of both the government and Media organizations to provide proper security to their workers but instead of providing them security they are letting them on the mercy of hard liners, state and non-state actors.
As I have already mentioned above, financial problem is the second major issue of the Pakistani journalists. In many cities of the country journalists are working on a very low salary packages which decrease their motivation for their work. Due to low salaries or not getting paid according to the proper wages, most of credible and talented journalists always searching for other jobs to solve their financial problem. Most of the journalists working on commission and contractual bases due to which they always not able to manage their daily expenditures, that why some of journalists are looking for illegal means.
Lake of Government Support;
Government support is very important but unfortunately government does not support journalists in Pakistan. In Pakistan, most of the time the rulers always support news that portray their performance and efficiency. In Pakistan, most of the time government tries to depress the journalists by not providing accurate information , especially during the incident of Bomb blast or in corruption cases against the government officials and politicians which has a negative impact on professional journalism. If journalists get a support from any government organization, then they will have a much more freedom as compare to the present situation them going through.
Unavailability of professional training;
Professional and safety trainings are very essential for the journalists but unfortunately, In Pakistan most of the journalists working in the field, does not have such opportunity or government level or their organization arrange such trainings which is very important for the journalists, especially for those who are working in the field. None of our media organization is providing training to their worker that how they should make them safe while working in war zones or hostile situation.
According to a recent study conducted by Media matters for democracy, due to unsafe working conditions, 88 per cent journalists in Pakistan self-censor their work. The study titled “Surrendering to Silence: An Account of Self-censorship among Pakistani Journalists” was conducted. Objective of the study was to evaluate the claims of self-censorship among the journalists in the country, considering the evaluation as a pre-requisite for understanding and resolving the problems related to the shrinking press freedom in Pakistan. According to the study, an assessment of the responses revealed that 88 per cent journalists in Pakistan self-censor their work. 63 per cent said that they do it to protect Pakistan’s image and 65 per cent said that they do it to protect the national interest.79 per cent of the respondents were between the age of 21 and 30, 63 per cent were between 31 and 40, and 41 per cent were between 41 and 50. 47 per cent of them were reporters, 15 per cent were copy editors, 21 per cent were in production and the rest were in other areas of journalism.
The above mention issues are the major cause of declining attitude of the journalism and journalists in Pakistan. It is alarming for the well education nation that it is not getting the right news or truth at eh right time .unless these issue will not be address in right direction, we can not only loss many journalists in the line of duty or there can be more News Channels like AVT Khyber, they can ask their workers to collect money from the people despite providing truth to the people.
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION AND FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS