Journalists in exile

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A free and progressive media is vital for good governance and a liberal society. The media health is directly linked with journalists’ well-being. There are many parts of the world, including Pakistan, where journalists face ‘restrictions’ from state and non-state actors, and sometimes they are forced to leave their workplace, town and even country. In this regard, the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) has endorsed recommendations Independent High-Level Panel of Legal Experts (IHLPLE) on media freedom published that demand that the Commonwealth governments provide safe refuge to journalists at risk. A journalist is forced to go into exile when they are in the face of imprisonment or attack on their family members and their own life. More than 450 journalists from Commonwealth countries have been forced to take refuge in foreign lands between 2010 and 2015. According to Reporters Without Borders, an organization working for journalists safety, says that in 2019, 389 journalists were detained on different pretext. Besides imprisonment and violence, journalists are subjected to forced disappearance and in 2018 alone, 65 journalists went missing.
The number speaks volume and this is the time journalists are provided a safe workplace environment in their own countries. And in case their exile becomes unavoidable, countries should provide them refuge on a priority basis. CJA president Mahendra Ved has rightly said about IHLPE report: “This is a timely report which offers some very practical solutions to the dilemmas faced by a large number of journalists in today’s world who are increasingly under threat from state and non-state actors and in fear of their lives for just doing their job.” The report in fact addresses states worldwide that they should launch an emergency visa for journalists at risk and their immediate families and the issuing of travel documents to the relocated journalists if their passports are revoked or cancelled by their home countries. The report recommends that states legally identify journalists at risk as refugees under the terms of the international Refugee Convention and that they should be permitted to apply for refugee status from within their home countries, something which is not currently possible. The report further recommends that Interpol should require states to specify whether the subject of a Red Notice, seeking extradition, is a journalist in order to guard against the victimisation of journalists who have been given refuge abroad. At the end of the day, the ideal thing remains that journalists live in the native places and work to create ideal societies there.