Islamabad: The Journalism profession often called as the pillar of democracy is under threat in Pakistan, where journalists, reporters and media outlets confront a broad spectrum of safety hazards intrinsic to their profession, the Institute for Applied Geopolitics Studies reported by quoting Olivier Guillard, author of "A dangerous abyss called Pakistan".

The Institute for Applied Geopolitics Studies is a think tank of general interest, whose purpose is to study international and strategic relations and contemporary diplomatic and geopolitical issues.

It reported that a culture of fear-induced self-censorship has taken root, curtailing coverage of critical issues such as corruption, human rights violations, and political repression.

Examples of oppression are the killings of senior reporter Jan Muhammad Mahar and Ghuman Asghar Khand and protests against these attacks reflect the failure of the state machinery, Institute for Applied Geopolitics Studies reported.

Pakistan's ranking among the deadliest places for journalists, akin to Somalia and Burma, highlights the diverse threats from politicians, terror groups, influential figures, and state entities. Impunity persists, perpetuating a culture of silence. Even exiled journalists aren't safe, as seen in the murder of Arshad Sharif in Kenya.

The France based think tank reported, the state-controlled regulations curb media independence, while attacks are escalating annually, with inadequate redress. Conflict zones heighten journalists' vulnerability, with Islamabad, Punjab, and Sindh being the riskiest areas. Pakistan's press freedom deficit obstructs journalists' work, and impunity for assailants persists due to indifference and misconceptions about the media's role.

The Islamic country has a hostile environment for journalists, reporters and media establishments says the think tank.

On August 12, a senior reporter of a Sindhi news channel, Jan Muhammad Mahar, fell victim to a fatal armed attack by unidentified assailants in Sindh's Sukkur district. Tragically, Mahar was targeted while in his car, near his office. Preceding this incident, on August 7, another reporter, Ghuman Asghar Khand, met a similar fate in the Pir Jo Goth area of Khairpur district (Sindh province, 500 km northeast of Karachi). Reports suggest that Khand sustained nine gunshots.

The report said that many journalists became victims of this horrific oppression. Journalists with a critical approach in Pakistan often have no option but to leave, and it is often assumed that those who choose exile are in a safe haven. Yet, circumstances occasionally place them in vulnerable situations. Sharif's killing in Kenya, as claimed by the Pakistani government, was the result of a plot hatched within Pakistan.

Between May 2022 and March 2023, Pakistan recorded a distressing tally of at least 140 cases involving threats and assaults against journalists, media professionals, and media entities.

Startlingly, the instances of press freedom breaches surged to 140 in 2022-23 from 86 in the preceding year, indicating a steep yearly uptick of about 63 percent. Among the principal categories of violations targeting journalists were 51 instances (comprising 36 percent) of physical assault, 21 cases (15 percent) of attacks that inflicted damage upon equipment, journalists' residences, or news organizations' premises, and 14 cases (10 percent) of offline or online threats, including seven instances of death threats. Collectively, these three forms of infractions constituted an overwhelming share of nearly 60 per cent within the total count of 140 cases.

The publication reported that the Journalists who work in conflict zones, such as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces are most susceptible to threats from terror organizations, criminal gangs, and unidentified state actors.

The Pakistan Press Freedom Report has also identified Islamabad as the "riskiest" region for journalists in Pakistan, adding that 40 per cent of the violations (56 out of the total 140 cases) were recorded there. Punjab province was second worst with 25 per cent of the violations (35 cases) and Sindh a close third at 23 per cent (32 cases) as per the report.