Attack on Hamid Mir has massively damaged press freedom: PPF chief
KARACHI: Secretary General, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Owais Aslam Ali, has said the armed attack on the life of senior journalist Hamid Mir had massively damaged the cause of freedom of the press and security of media institutions, which was required for their independent functioning.
This he said while speaking at a function, organized by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) at a local hotel to mark the World Press Freedom Day. He said that there was a demand for shifting the venue of trial court proceedings of the case of slain media person in the context of the case of slain Geo News TV journalist Wali Khan Babar as recently convictions were secured against the killers of Wali Babar by shifting his trial court case to a town in interior Sindh.
On the demand of Owais Aslam Ali, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, said the trial court proceedings related to the murder case of slain media person Munir Sangi, belonging to Larkana, would be shifted to any other town of the province in accordance with the demands of heirs in the family of the deceased media person.
Memon said that the Pakistan People’s Party’s government in the province would never accept the shutting down of the publication of Daily Jang or the closure of the transmission of Geo TV as it would be in sheer violation of principles of freedom of the media.
He said that Geo TV (Jang Group) is a big organization and we are proud of it, adding that the PPP always supported the cause of freedom of press.
Memon said the PPP government would always be tolerant to criticism, due or undue, being propagated by Geo News but it would never accept the complete shutting down of transmission of the channel. He said the all television channels and outlets of the media should have full freedom to criticize governments but they should never be penalized in the form of shutting down their transmission.
The Sindh information minister said the present situation in the country, where different institutions and sections of the society had become highly polarized in the aftermath of the attack on Hamid Mir, had been going highly in favor of enemies of the country. He regretted that nobody was available on the current scenario to defuse the situation in an amicable manner through talks and negotiations. Rather every other person is found active on the scene trying to add fuel to the fire.
Memon said that he would never support the latest stance of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for boycotting the Daily Jang and Geo TV as such a decision would be completely against the spirit of freedom of the media and the principles of democracy.
He said the media and journalistic fraternity in the country should observe complete freedom and solidarity among their ranks to give support and uphold the cause of freedom of the press. He said ensuring freedom of press was a compulsory condition for the continuity of democracy in the country.
He said that media institutions, TV channels and newspapers should not be subjected to censorship or restrictions as the media should embark upon the course of self-regulation, self-reform, and self-discipline as it has always been the norm in a democratic regime.
Other speakers at the forum said the media and journalists’ fraternity would never accept shutting down any newspaper or television channel by the establishment as such an act would create serious repercussions for the independence of the press and for the existence and future of other media institutions in the country.
They also eulogized the journalistic services of injured Geo News senior anchorperson Hamid Mir as saying that the armed attack on his life on the evening of April 19, 2014 could only be perceived as the attack on the freedom of press in the country. They said the only crime committed by Hamid Mir, owing to which he was attacked, was that he had become the representative voice of downtrodden Pakistanis, especially because he had upheld the cause of the people of Balochistan struggling for their long-denied rights.
They said the journalists’ fraternity, regardless of the conflicting business interests of media houses, had complete unity in their ranks for the cause of freedom of press and in no way were they ready to accept any propaganda being aired regarding the attack on the life of Hamid Mir.
Editor of Daily Jang Nazir Leghari said the establishment, which at present had been trying to brand Jang and Geo TV as disloyal to the state, in the past had declared the leaders of East Pakistan AK Fazlul Haq and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who in fact had been at the forefront in the struggle for the creation of Pakistan, as traitors. He said the same tyrannical fashion of the state for unduly awarding certificates of disloyalty had dated back to the times of Socrates as the famous Greek philosopher had been sentenced to death while declaring him an enemy of the state.
He said the 180 million population of the country would never be affected by the propaganda of the establishment as it would always hold Hamid Mir in high esteem as the torchbearer of the struggle for securing the rights of the people of Pakistan.
He said the dissenting voice of the media had not been stifled during the draconian and repressive military and martial law rule of the 1980s in the country and in the present modern-day, no state authority would be able to shut down publication of newspapers or transmission of TV channels through the coercive means.
He said it was high time that the owners of media houses and publishers of newspapers sort out their mutual and conflicting interests for the greater cause of freedom of media.
Tahir Najmi, Editor of Daily Express, said the journalistic fraternity had only one consensus opinion about the attack on the life of Hamid Mir that the incident was highly condemnable, tantamount to curbing the freedom of press, while the criminal elements and conspirators behind the attack, regardless of their influence or status, should be brought to justice without any undue delay.
He said the business interests of owners of media houses had been behind the present situation of division and polarization persisting on the national media scene following the attack on Hamid Mir.
He said the working journalists and their representative associations like Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists had always been in the forefront in the struggle against censorship and curbs on the media and press but associations of editors and newspaper publishers had never played their due role in securing the freedom of press.
Saeed Khawar, Resident Editor of Daily Nawa-e-Waqat Karachi, said the media institutions should show harmony in their relationship with each other so that there should be no damage to the cause of freedom of the media.
He said the shutting down of any TV channel or newspaper in the country would be perceived as an act of the state in total disrespect of morality and ethical norms being considered necessary for freedom of the media in the country.
Dr Jabbar Khattak, secretary-general of CPNE, said the democratically elected governments had always been tolerant to criticism of the media and press against their policies while military regimes in the country had always tried to stifle the voice of the dissenting media.
Aamir Mahmood of CPNE also said the CPNE as the representative forum of working and publisher editors in the country would never accept the present form of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), and its repressive laws, mainly due to abnormal constitution of the electronic media regulator. He said Pemra in the present form was not in a position to consider any application forwarded to it for revoking the license of any TV channel.
Vice-president CPNE and chairman of its Sindh Committee Shaheen Qureshi said that World Press Freedom Day in the country should be observed from next year as the day to commemorate Shuhuda (martyrs) of journalism in the country as over 100 journalists in the country had so far laid down their lives for upholding the cause of freedom of the press.
Pakistan Press International