Islamabad-Government and media organisations must institutionalise life and health insurance for journalists as they face serious financial and security challenges in profession, the field study report and documentary, ‘Surviving the Story’, recommended on Monday.

The report and the documentary were launched at National Press Club (NPC) by Communications Research Strategies (CRS) and JournalismPakistan.com.

‘Surviving the Story’ highlights the plight of Pakistani journalists and their families in the wake of serious financial, security and professional challenges faced by them. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was area of focus for the report and the documentary as it has the highest number of cases of journalists losing their lives or threatened to leave their areas, a statement said.

The report and the documentary urges the stakeholders including journalists, press clubs, unions, government, media owners, civil society and international bodies to come together for streamlining media practices in Pakistan by redressing the foremost issue of financial security that the journalist community in Pakistan faces.

‘Surviving the Story’ has documented cases of the families of five journalists killed by miscreants and of five others who had to leave their areas after been threatened by the militants.

Those who laid their lives in the line of duty include Saleem Tahir (DI Khan), Musa Khankhel (Swat), Azmat Ali Bangash (Peshawar), Fazal Wahab (Swat) and Hayatullah Khan (North Waziristan Agency). The families of these slain journalists received either little or no compensation.

The other five journalists came under deadly attacks and were forced to relocate to safer areas to protect themselves and their families are Anwar Shakir (South Waziristan Agency), Adnan Bitani (Tank), Abu Zar Afridi (Khyber Agency), Pajir Gul (North Waziristan Agency) and Sahibzada Bahauddin (Bajaur Agency).

Former president of the National Press Club, Farooq Faisal Khan, while speaking at the occasion said that the report and the documentary ‘Surviving the Story’ would be a good addition to the Resource Centre at the National Press Club established to help build professional capacity of the journalists. He pointed out that journalists had not forgotten their colleagues having lost their lives.

He referred to a recent addition of a monument at the NPC to honour them. He said that documenting the issues related to the wider question of journalists’ security and safety was an important step for continuing to work for journalist’s rights.

“It is painful when a journalist becomes a story,” said Aniq Zafar, CEO of the CRS while addressing the ceremony, adding that it was even more painful to see that anybody hardly cared.

Zafar said that some progress had been made by training journalists on physical safety but the economic aspect remained far from hitting the spotlight.

“There is no mechanism of disbursement of funds available with relevant departments and organisations when it comes to the families of those journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of reporting truth”, he lamented.

‘Surviving the Story’ aims to bring key stakeholders together to highlight the economic aspect of journalists’ security, particularly after the event of death and displacement. In the light of the report, the key recommendations would be put forth to policymakers, he said.

Myra Imran, researcher of the study, cited relevant findings of credible journalist bodies to note that Pakistan was fourth among the deadliest countries in the world for journalists following Mexico, the Philippines and Iraq. She said that as many as 2,297 journalists were killed across the globe including 115 in Pakistan since 1990.

Also, 17 journalists in Pakistan injured from December 2016 to February 2017 in various incidents while eight received verbal death threats, she said. She also shared details from the report.

Myra stressed that any mechanisms to be developed to support families of the martyred journalists had to factor in the gender aspect.

Access to females in the families of martyred journalists is a major challenge and it effects how any assistance fails to reach the deserving, she elaborated.

President National Press Club Shakeel Anjum said, “When a government employee retires or dies after remaining in the service for certain number of years, he/she is entitled to pension and other benefits. However, when a journalist dies or retires, there is nothing”.

Anjum appreciated efforts of the CRS and JournalismPakistan.com to produce what he said was an in-depth study and an eye-opening documentary to highlight the problems of the slain and displaced journalists in Pakistan. “Together, we will defeat these challenges”, he vowed.

President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Afzal Butt suggested that regulatory departments like PEMRA and ABC should be empowered to bind the print and electronic media to submit insurance certificates and regular salary payment certificates of their employees at the time of renewal of their respective licences.