The Fraughtness of Journalism in Bad Neighborhoods – Pakistan

Enjoyed a very interesting session at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on the really dangerous world of journalists in Pakistan. An eminent panel was discussing “Challenges for Independent News Media in Pakistan.

Russ Imrie Sept 27 2012
Washington DC

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) brought experts, focused on Pakistan, to share their. experiences in a world where journalists are at risk. Big risk.


Sherry Ricchiardi talking about workshops she led. The journalists present (there) were constantly at risk from criminals, the Taliban, and of course the ISI–national intelligence who hung out at the back of the room, taking notes, making calls…
She asked 35 journalists at a workshop:

“how many of you have done an interview under threat, even at gunpoint?” the answer was: “more than half raised their hands”


Malik Siraj Akbar has risked his life trying to bring balanced reportage to Pakistan’s media. He cites the limitations on journalists. They have to survive economically by aligning themselves with a paper (and onerously with the publisher’s agenda), an advertiser (and their agenda) , or an NGO. This environment is guaranteed to stifle independent and free reporting.

According to Robert Deitz, 22 journalists have been killed since 2004 and many of these murders were triggered by a report on a crime or corruption and when the insulted party exacted lethal revenge.

“In Pakistan, you can kill anyone and get away with it.” – Awais Salerm

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) rolls out a card…crucial in Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Ecuador, et al.

20120927-115038.jpg, and perhaps in the West as eco-protesters are tagged as “security threats” or even terrorists.’


l. to r, Robert Dietz (Committee to Protect Journalists), Sherry Ricchiardi (Author, Challenges for Independent News Media in Pakistan),
Brian Joseph (moderator NED), Awais Saleem (Dunya TV)
, Malik Siraj Akbar (Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow) – photo Russ Imrie

What are some solutions for this situation? Does anyone really care among a population with wildly diverse literacy levels (87% in Islamabad to an abysmal 7.5% among females in the tribal regions)

Interestingly, the (available PDF) PDF - screen_green CIMA report quotes Pamela Constable’s work, Pakistan at War With Itself (our review here) and the poisonous environment of Pakistan’s society. In the citation, Ricchiardi goes another lap with a time-worn tidbit that launched a thousand Indy’s (Indiana Jones, Spielberg’s character in the 1981 film “Raiders of the Lost Ark“). Indy, our hero looks down into an uncovered tomb and sees the floor below covered with squirming snakes. Stay with me here. During the 19th Century’s “Great Game” between colonial powers Tsarist Russia and Great Britain, wrestling over India and South Asia, the legendary and much recounted torture of British adventurers in the “Black Pit” of Bukhara was born and continues to justify the stereotype of the unspeakable and wanton savagery of Islam believers. I explore this on another post on stereotypes “hardwired” and “grandfathered” into Western culture that just won’t go away. Please read our review of Constable’s book and link to our stereotypes post here.

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