Hafeezur Rehman, the chief editor of a local weekly newspaper, Nawa-i-Asia, and president of the cable TV network owners association of Kohat, was shot dead in Kalo Khan Banda on Sunday by unidentified gunmen. When Pakistan was termed the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in 2014, it garnered so much attention that one hoped the government would take serious action. Yet journalists continue being targeted without fear of retribution.

For every journalist who has been targeted and murdered, there are countless others who have been threatened and coerced into silence.

This is seriously hampering press freedom in the country. The alarming increase in violence and threats has forced many journalists to migrate from these danger zones, and intimidation has forced others to self-censor, particularly in the conflict areas. Where is the freedom of press if Pakistan calls itself a democracy? Curtailing the freedom of speech goes against the very essence of the desire for justice.

Sadly, the perpetrators of violence against journalists and media workers enjoy almost absolute impunity in Pakistan. Because of the lack of credible, independent investigations, the murders remain shrouded in mystery, with allegations being made against the usual suspects, namely, militant groups, intelligence agencies and separatists. These allegations are denied outright. Isn’t it then state’s responsibility to find and punish the true perpetrators?

Successive governments have failed to ensure the safety of journalists. General Musharraf took the stance of ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ and totally denied it, while his minister termed such incidents ‘accidents’. A similar response was seen when the matter was raised with President Asif Ali Zardari and the ministers of that era. How the present government and security establishment is dealing with the treatment of media workers and journalists is very clear. The situation must change. Access to information is the right of every Pakistani.