Journalists defer sit-in to Feb 7
By: Kalbe Ali
ISLAMABAD: After assurances that their major demands would be addressed within a week, media persons from all parts of the country here on Monday deferred their sit-in in front of the parliament house to February 7.
The sit-in was organised by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) demanding the government arrest the killers of journalists, constitute the 8th Wage Board, bring reporters and camerapersons under insurance coverage, and pay compensation up to Rs2.5 million – equivalent to the amount being paid to the law enforcement officials killed in terror attacks – to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. The demands also included an end to non-payment of salaries to journalists by various media houses.
“The worst case is that cameras and other equipment are insured but the management of electronic media are least bothered to provide insurance cover to the camerapersons who operate it or the reporters standing in front of it,” said Pervaiz Shaukat, the president of the PFUJ.
The office-bearers and leaders of various unions of journalists on the occasion highlighted the plight of the mediapersons.
“While the government has been assuring the journalists and announcing compensations, not much has been materialised,” said G.M. Jamali, the president of the Karachi Union of Journalists. “Apart from the Saleem Shazad commission, not a single enquiry has been made into the killings of journalists. Unfortunately, even the chief justice of Pakistan has not taken these issues seriously,” he added.
Security issues faced by journalists dominated the speeches made by the participants.
“Cameraman Israr was hit by a stray bullet while he was covering a gunfight between the law enforcement agencies and militants at Lal Masjid in 2007. Now after so many years when he has been restricted to a wheelchair, the announced compensation of Rs500,000 has not been paid to him,” said Bilal Dar, the secretary general of the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists. “When this is the case with a mediaperson in the federal capital, we can only imagine what’s going on in remote parts of the country.”
Though the journalists condemned and criticised all the authorities in the country, they remained peaceful. Nobody even chant a slogan when the convoy of the army chief passed by.
Later, the police closed the road in front of the FBR House for vehicular traffic.
Though scheduled for 24 hours, the sit-in was deferred for nine days to give the government time to implement the assurances made by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.
The minister came to the sit-in camp after evening and claimed that he had to rush from Lahore to reach the camp. Addressing the journalists, the minister said their main demand – establishment of the 8th Wage Board – would be met within one week.
“It will take 3-4 days for the discussions and the board would be notified within this week,” Mr Kaira said, adding: “The government has always been close to media workers and journalists in the time of crises.”
Regarding compensation to the journalists and camerapersons killed in targeted or terror attacks, he said a revolving fund of Rs50 million for the welfare of journalists would be established soon.
“The TORs (terms of reference) of the fund have been finalised and it would be announced in a day or two,” the minister said.
However, regarding the demand for compensation to journalists equal to those given to law enforcement personnel, the minister said the matter required legal consultations.
“But for those channels and newspapers who delay salaries of their employees or where there is no insurance policy, I assure you that we will discuss these points with the managements of the media houses,” he added.
After the address of the information minister, PFUJ president Pervaiz Shaukat and secretary general Amin Yousuf announced that the sit-in had been deferred for nine days only to ensure that the promises made by the minister were fulfilled.
“This does not mean that we can be fooled by anyone. If the issues are not resolved as promised, we will come back to show our determination,” Mr Yousuf said.
He added: “If we can stay alert for 24 hours in the line of reporting and capturing footages in the worst kind of weather or insecure environment, we can also bear the cold weather of Islamabad for our cause.”
Earlier, mediapersons covering the Senate session announced their decision to boycott the proceedings to lodge their protest and joined the sit-in.
A number of lawmakers from both the houses of parliament, including PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Senator Mushahid Hussain, Dr Farooq Sattar of the MQM, leader of the house in Senate Jahangir Badar, Senator Zahid Khan of ANP, Senator Raja Zafarul Haq of the PML-N, Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari, MNAs Jamshed Dasti and Akhunzada Chattan visited the camp and expressed solidarity with the journalists.