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In Pakistan, big perks and big risks to being a journalist

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“I was doing a story on the chief of ISI then – Gen. Pasha and a military trial wrongly conducted under his watch – and that is when I was attacked by a brick that hit my car while I was driving in Islamabad,” Jan says.

Pakistan was ranked as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists this year in a report released by the United Nations. And the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent international body to defend press freedom, ranked Pakistan as the most dangerous country in both 2010 and 2011.

More than 90 Pakistani journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 2000, and none of the cases have been solved. Journalists say they face threats not only from terrorists, but also from the powerful military establishment.

“It is hard for us to report without pressures in a balanced, fair way with military on one side and the Taliban on the other,” says Safdar Dawar, president of the Tribal Union of Journalists. He recently received an international human rights award for his reporting from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“Some selected journalists even receive monthly payments from the intelligence agencies,” Jan says, adding that it’s common for prominent journalists to be offered property from the government at cheaper rates with the expectation that they report favorably of the government or military. Indeed, there are “media colonies” in every major city of Pakistan, where the Pakistani government has allocated land to journalists on subsidized rates.

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