Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Programme
Freedom Network pioneers issues of safety and protection of journalists in Pakistan since the organization was launched in May 2013. While there has been little to support journalists at risks at the government level Freedom Network helped set up the country’s first safety hubs in 2015 in collaboration with five biggest press clubs in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and Islamabad to monitor and document threats to journalists.
In absence of verified and authentic information the safety hubs is the only available monitoring and documentation of threats journalists receive.
Pakistan is widely recognized as one of the most dangerous places on the planet to practice journalism. Since 2000, over 150 journalists and media workers have been killed in line of duty- about two thirds of them target killed for their work and one third killed in the line of duty after being caught up in bombings and attacks in public places, according to Pakistan Media Watchdog Freedom Network. These facilities come in the backdrop of extremism, violence and terrorism that have affected Pakistan since 9/11 and rapid expansion of the media sector since 2002 that has exposed media and its practitioners to new and expanding risks. Journalists working in conflict areas are often targeted by opposing groups for not complying with certain demands or not presenting their points of view. Working journalists, camerapersons and their media workers face threats in the field and remain worried about their safety and have deep concern over the increasing incidents of target killing, abductions, torture and intimidation.
Journalists Safety Hub Program
Considering the challenges that journalists, media and media support groups in the country face in detailed documentation and analysis of threats and attacks and threat response, Pakistan based independent media watchdog Freedom Network with the technical assistance of International Media Support (IMS) in 2015 launched the Pakistan Press Club Safety Hubs Network. This unique program aims at partnering up with six press clubs, including Pakistan’s five largest press clubs- with a combined membership comprising around half of all working journalists in a major way through the following mission:
- Report, document, verify and analyze cases of threats and attacks against members of these press clubs
- Report, document, verify and analyze cases of threats and attacks against non-member journalists, media workers and media houses in Balochistan, Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh
- Mediate between threatened/ attacked journalists and government authorities to provide relief to media practitioners against their grievances
- Promote awareness through advocacy initiatives among journalists and media workers on the need for proper and detailed reporting and documentation of threats and attacks against them
- In serious cases provide legal, medical and financial aid, as well as relocation assistance in eligible cases, to journalists and media workers through the Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund, PJSF, separately managed by Freedom Network.
- Generate regular periodic analysis on trends of threats and attacks and threat actors to help improve threat response and threat response strategies by key stakeholders such as journalists, media workers, press clubs, media houses, media associations, government authorities and civil society.
Getting Assistance from Safety Hubs
Members of the Peshawar Press Club, National Press Club, Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, and Quetta Press Club can report their safety concerns to the designated Safety Hub Coordinator at each of these press clubs who can assist the complainants in redressing their problems and concerns including referring their cases for assistance to PJSF, if eligible. In the safety hubs, the threats and attacks are well documented using special templates. The Safety Hub Coordinator is tasked with verification and evaluation of the threat or attack and make recommendations for onward assistance based on the nature of the case. All specific information is kept confidential. Identification of journalists assisted are not revealed.
Types of Assistance from Safety Hubs through Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund
If the threat level is high and the life of a journalist in distress is under serious threat, he or she is immediately relocated to a safer place within Pakistan through the Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund (PJSF) for a restricted timeframe. Partial legal aid for journalists facing cases against them in courts for their work or to pursue their harassers and attackers for their work is also provided. Partial medical aid is also provided for journalists and media workers injured in line of duty. Limited financial aid is also provided to families of journalists killed in line of duty. All assistance is subject to availability of funds. Cases of journalists facing general threats are taken up with relevant authorities.
If you feel, receive or face threats, don’t wait or fear- report it to the Safety Hubs
If you feel, receive or face any threat or attack for journalism work, don’t wait in silence or fear. Immediately contact the Safety Hub Coordinator and fill out the threat Documentation Form. The form is available in both English and Urdu. Your case will not be processed without filling this form. Using this filled out form, the Safety Hub Coordinator will swiftly verify and evaluate your case and take appropriate action, including possible recommendation for specific assistance to the Pakistan Journalist Safety Fund, to help you.