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Another courageous casualty in Pakistan, journalism's most dangerous country

Murtaza Razvi, an editor at one of Pakistan's leading English newspapers, was murdered in Karachi yesterday. He was one of many journalists I met on a recent trip who have refused to give up their work despite threats.

By Staff writer / April 20, 2012

Murtaza Rizvi in a meeting with US journalists at Dawn offices in Karachi, Pakistan.

Courtesy of Ann Hartman/East-West Center

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Two weeks ago I was in an office in Karachi, Pakistan, with a room full of journalists, including Murtaza Razvi, an editor at Dawn newspaper, discussing challenges facing the country’s vibrant media, including risks to covering Pakistan. Yesterday I was e-mailed that he had been murdered.

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Jenna Fisher is the Monitor's former Asia editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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Before I left for Pakistan a few weeks ago on a journalist exchange program sponsored by the East-West Center, I asked colleagues who reported in the country, both Pakistani and American, about their greatest challenge.

Americans complained of the government's game of “smoke and mirrors,” a disinformation campaign that puts most other government propaganda efforts to shame. The challenge for Pakistani journalists, on the other hand, was decidedly more severe. “We have a completely free media in Pakistan, but no protection,” said one journalist based in Islamabad.

How severe? The country leads the world in journalist murders, the latest just yesterday.

Seven of the other eight Pakistani journalists at a meeting with my group proceeded to share stories of threats. It was common, they said, to receive a threat by a phone call from the Taliban for not getting enough quotes from them, from political parties for including the Taliban in a story or not being represented the way they saw fit, and even from Pakistan’s version of the CIA, the ISI.

But this wasn’t something that had them lining up to find a new job. It was just how things work. Most of the time the person on the other end of the line is bluffing, they said. They had gotten used to the fact that Pakistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2010 and 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. And killings there have been met with near-perfect impunity throughout the years. For some perspective, consider that there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists since 2002. (see CPJ’s video)

When you put it that way, having to peer through smoke and mirrors to get to the heart of a story doesn't look so bad.

I visited the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting while I was in Pakistan. The ministry has jurisdiction over the rules and regulations relating to information, broadcasting, and the press. Like many Pakistanis we spoke to on this trip, the minister talked at length about how wonderful it was to have an active, independent, vibrant media that had absolutely no restrictions and how that was contributing to democracy in Pakistan. 

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