Memon says press is free; CPJ, express concern: Faisalabad incident regretted -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Memon says press is free; CPJ, express concern: Faisalabad incident regretted

ISLAMABAD- The press in Pakistan has never been as free and independent as it has been during two-and-a-half years of this government; even national and international media has acknowledged this fact.

The minister for information and media development, Nisar A. Memon, made these observations in a letter addressed to Ann Cooper, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based organization, according to a press release.

The minister said the government of Pakistan had regretted the unfortunate incident involving police and demonstrating journalists in Faisalabad on April 14. Since then, the matter had engaged the attention of both the federal government and the provincial government of Punjab. The governor of the province had already ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter, he added.

Dismissing the notion that the very nature of military rule threatened press freedom in Pakistan, the minister observed that this perception might be created due to the propaganda by some of the opponents of the government. He also reproduced the observation made editorially by one of the independent dailies recently: “The present dispensation, despite being a military government, has not put undue curbs on the press and has generally been tolerant of dissenting opinion”.

According to the minister, the president has repeatedly and publicly upheld the right of the journalists to report freely, without fear of favour. “Incidents like the one in Faisalabad are unfortunate aberrations and should be treated as such”, he maintained.

It may be added that the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists had written a letter to the president yesterday inviting his attention toward the Faisalabad incident.

CPJ: Condemning the police assault on the journalists in Faisalabad, the Committee to Protect Journalists asked President Musharraf “to issue a public statement upholding the right of all journalists in Pakistan to report freely, without fear of reprisal,” Masood Haider writes from New York.

In a letter faxed to the president, the New York-based CPJ said that it was “greatly troubled by these attacks,” and added that “based on the sequence of events, we have little doubt that they were inspired by Governor Maqbool’s diatribe against the press.” The CPJ said: “As we have noted before, the very nature of military rule threatens press freedom in Pakistan. Journalists no longer enjoy constitutional protections, and other democratic safeguards have been deeply compromised.”

While appreciating the statement made by the information minister, Nisar Memon, expressing regret over the attack and promising to “take action against the responsible officials,” the CPJ said the results of the investigation ordered by the president into the assault “be made public as soon as possible.”

LHCBA: A general body meeting of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Bar Association adopted two identical resolutions condemning the police action in Faisalabad. The meeting was presided over by a former president of the association, Khudadad Burki.

Pakistan Bar Council member Hafiz Abdur Rahman Ansari and Punjab Bar Council member Arif Chaudhry presented their resolutions assuring the press of lawyers’ support in maintaining its freedom. A demand for the provincial governor’s resignation was added subsequently.
Source: Dawn
Date:4/17/2002