HAIG TER-GHEVONDIAN WRITES – Here in the United States, someone can say or write a controversial opinion and be protected from government intervention or the public. Some abuse it and some take it for granted, but having a right like freedom of speech implemented and enforced in Pakistan would be a life-saver…literally.
In Pakistan, journalists walk on eggshells for fear of arrest or even murder by a member of one of many terrorist groups. With fourteen journalists killed between May 2014 and April 2015, Pakistan maintains its reputation for being the most dangerous country for journalists.
Waqas A. Khan, a Pakistani journalist, told Sherry Ricchiardi of USA Today in a special interview that “An impartial eye on religion is taboo in Pakistan and in some cases can cost your life.” The danger is so much so that Khan has begun to keep a pistol in his car to protect himself in case he needs to.
Surprisingly, Khan is not the only journalist trained in handling firearms. Since May of this year, the Special Security Unit (SSU) of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Elite Police Training Center has been providing weapons training sessions for journalists.
The officers not only train the journalists to protect themselves from attackers in outdoor environments, but at their own jobs as well – for example, one session included a mock-assault by officers dressing up as terrorists and storming a newsroom.
Though weapons can provide a means of protection for Pakistani journalists, it seems risky in the long run. This isn’t to say that the Pakistani media should accept the situation and hope for the best.
Efforts are being made by people like Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi of the United Nations to create more peaceful solutions: “The challenge is not only to strengthen the means to assure the safety of journalists in conflict situations, but also ensure they are not exposed to avoidable risks,” Ambassador Lodhi stated.
With Pakistan’s violent history of reporter casualties, maybe the pen can be mightier with the sword, if not safer. Ultimately, however, a peaceful solution would be better to avoid unnecessary deaths not only for journalists, but for the general public possibly caught in the crossfire.