Journalists stage walkout -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Journalists stage walkout

ISLAMABAD – In a rare show of unity, the journalists on July 30 staged a walkout and remained out of the media gallery of the National Assembly for two hours to register their protest against certain provisions of proposed Defamation Bill, apparently aimed at imposing curbs on ‘freedom of information’.

The journalists walked out of the gallery minutes after the House started its proceedings.

Under a clause of the proposed bill, the government has increased the punishment from three months to a year for reporters, publishers, editors and distributors on publishing any defamatory material.

Additionally, it has also been proposed under another clause of the bill that journalists will have to pay Rs 3,00,000 instead of Rs 50,000 as fine for any such ‘crime’ and these cases will be tried under Criminal procedure Code (CrPC).

Surprisingly, no member from the opposition parties, which otherwise claim to be the torchbearers of the freedom of information, came to the journalists to express solidarity.

Federal Minister for water and Power Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and parliamentary Secretary for Information Bilal Ijaz rushed to the gallery for convincing the journalists to call off their protest.

They held about half-an-hour negotiations with the representatives of the journalists, but failed to convince them as media representatives stuck firmly to their stance and asked the government to withdraw the controversial clauses.

On their return to the House, Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain called a meeting with the representatives of the journalists at his chamber and assured them to reconsider the controversial clauses of the said bill.

He said that under the said clauses of the proposed bill, journalists would be called in the courts as witnesses, instead of a party in case of any dispute.

On this assurance, journalists called off their walkout and joined the proceedings of the House after lunch and Friday prayers.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:7/31/2004