Journalists’ woes worry foreign counterparts
ISLAMABAD, Feb 24: International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) President Christopher Warren and UK’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chief Chris Morley on Saturday expressed their concern over the growing incidents of violence against journalists in Pakistan.
Speaking at a roundtable conference on “State of Press Freedom in Pakistan”, organised jointly by the IFJ and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the two visiting mediapersons asked the Pakistani government to provide security to journalists against acts of intimidation and harassment.
The moot was participated by The Telegraph (India) Editor Bharat Bhushan, Free Media Movement (Sri Lanka) convener Sunanda Deshapriya, office-bearers of the PFUJ, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ), senior journalists and representatives of the lawyers association, civil society and political parties.
The participants unanimously passed two different resolutions.
In one resolution, the participants condemned the non- implementation of the seventh Wage Board Award and demanded constitution of the eight Wage Board Award.
They also called for linking the release of government advertisement to media organisations with the implementation of the wage award and criticised the regime for using advertisement as a tool to intimidate the press.
Reading out a resolution, NUJ President Chris Morley, said: “The right to press and broadcasting freedom, as well as freedom of expression, is fundamental in a civilised state. We believe these freedoms are under threat in Pakistan and action must be taken to ensure they are not lost.”
“The continuing killing, kidnapping and harassment of journalists in Pakistan is intolerable and must cease,” he noted.
Emphasising on the journalists’ security in the troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), he said: “We demand that crime against journalists be thoroughly and scrupulously investigated.”
Mr Warren regretted that today media in Pakistan was facing a “crisis of safety”. He said four journalists were killed in Pakistan in 12 months. He observed that he had witnessed another dangerous trend of targeting families of journalists, which did not happen anywhere else in the world.
Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia, a non-governmental organisation, said in the last seven years Pakistan had seen murders of 20 journalists with 15 occurring in just two years. Whereas only in a few cases were the accused prosecuted by the government.
Mr Barakat of Al-Jazeera TV raised the issue of the arrest of the channel’s cameraman Sami Alhaj by a major of Pakistan Army six years ago and asked the journalists’ bodies to internationalise the matter as the Pakistani government had handed him over to the US authorities.
The general secretary of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Rawalpindi, Shah Khawar expressed his concern over the state’s behaviour with the journalists.
He said he would raise the issue of the arrest of Mr Sami and get resolutions in this regard passed by the bar associations. He also announced the establishment of a ‘Legal Aid Society’ to provide free legal service to mediapersons.
Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation termed the Press Freedom Ordinance 2002 an ineffective and weak piece of legislation and stressed the need for bringing radical changes in it after consultation with journalists and civil society.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Haider Abbas Rizvi said though things were improving in Pakistan, still there was a long way to go.
Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem claimed that Pakistan had freer press today. He said the government welcomed any fact-finding mission as it had nothing to hide.
Earlier, PFUJ President Pervaiz Shaukat presented the welcome address.
Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and Senator Raza Rabbani of the People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP) attended the roundtable and assured their complete support to the journalists in their struggle for achieving their rights.