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Government, political parties and civil society urge enhanced security measures for journalists
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR – Security arrangements now protect journalists and the Peshawar Press Club building after a suicide bombing last December. The new measures were unveiled recently amid calls for adoption of a strategy to protect journalists working in militancy-wracked zones.
“The new bombproof building offers the latest security equipment enhancing the security of the press club premises and journalists gathering every day in large numbers for professional duty,” Shamim Shahid, president of the Peshawar Press Club, told Central Asia Online.
Two walk-through metal detectors, seven surveillance cameras, bombproof doors and windows and six biometric systems are among the features installed to protect journalists.
The suicide attack on December 22, 2009, killed four, including police constable Riaz and the club cashier, and wounded 17 people. Riaz saved numerous lives because he stopped the bomber from making it past the gate.
Pakistan and western governments funded the Rs 1m (US$11,500) security project. The security equipment was officially inaugurated October 17.
“Now journalists and high-profile visitors feel more secure than before,” Muhammad Ali, general-secretary of the club, told Central Asia Online.
The Peshawar Press Club is the only location in Peshawar for politicians and the general public to air grievances against government departments. It serves as a bridge between the government and the public.
On October 21, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Khyber Union of Journalists, media development organisation Intermedia and Copenhagen-based International Media Support a conference on the safety of journalists in conflict zones. Participants demanded that the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments “devise a foolproof strategy” to protect media representatives working in war zones.
According to the organisers, the conference participants also called for the publication of reports on journalists killed by militants.
Titled “Keeping Journalists Safe Makes Democracy Stronger,” the conference condemned all attacks on journalists, media professionals and others associated with the media covering armed conflicts or trapped in conflict areas during reporting.
The participants called on the federal and provincial governments and all other parties in an armed conflict to do all they could to prevent crimes against journalists, to investigate crimes against journalists and to bring the guilty to justice.
Some 30 journalists have been killed in Pakistan during the war on terrorism. Journalists working in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and KP take the brunt of terrorist attacks.
The conference endorsed UN Security Council Resolution No. 1738, calling for acknowledgement of a war correspondent’s right to prisoner-of-war status without any prejudice under the Third Geneva Convention. The participants urged the media houses of Pakistan to take immediate steps for the safety of media persons.
A declaration adopted by the conference condemns all who target journalists, and urged all parties in conflicts to recognize the media and media equipment and facilities as civilian entities and that they should not be targeted.