OTHER VOICES

The culture of impunity

Posted July 11, 2011, at 7:22 p.m.

Censorship in a very blunt form is being practised in Pakistan. It includes torture and death. Saleem Shahzad, who reported on links between his country’s military and terrorists, is the latest to be brutally censored.

If journalists are going to stand up to this form of censorship, they will need the support of Pakistani government authorities in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the abduction and death of Shahzad. And democratic countries, including Canada, should impress on Pakistan the importance of upholding the freedom of the press to report without fear of death.

The body of Shahzad, a father of three, was found with 17 wounds, including deep gashes, from a beating that caused his broken ribs to pierce his lungs.

In the country that claimed ignorance of the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s presence in a military town for several years, journalists who dare probe the intelligence-terror nexus are paying with their lives. Shahzad is the 15th journalist to be killed in Pakistan in all probability because of his work since the 2002 murder of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York. In none of those killings, except Pearl’s, was anyone prosecuted.

The bravery of Shahzad and some of his colleagues in Pakistan deserves mention..

A commission of inquiry into Shahzad’s murder has been set up by the government. This case is a chance to end the culture of impunity, and to confront the extremists in Pakistan’s military, and the damage they are inflicting on the country and region.

The Globe and Mail, Toronto (July 7)

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