Govt asked to defend freedom of expression
ISLAMABAD: Journalists and civil society activists at a seminar on Saturday condemned threats by extremist elements to Daily Aaj Kal and Daily Times and defended the dailies’ editorial policy, besides extending full support to the freedom of expression.
The South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) organised a seminar on “Rising Intolerance and Freedom of Expression” at the SAFMA centre here to identify the reasons behind the menace.
The participants demanded the government to use all means at its disposal to defend the freedom of expression, not to let anybody encroach upon the fundamental rights of citizens and take appropriate measures at all levels to eradicate extremism and terrorism. They criticised the establishment for ‘supporting’ extremist groups, which they termed the main reason for rising intolerance in society.
Threats since long: Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of Daily Aaj Kal and Daily Times, said that extremist elements have been threatening him of dire consequences for a long time, owing to the editorial policy of the newspapers.
He said that after publishing a cartoon depicting Umme Hassaan — wife of former Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz — in Aaj Kal, students of the mosque chanted slogans against him, adding that a few days later in an ulema conference in Lahore, Hassaan and other clerics had extended threats against him and his organisation.
Sethi told participants of the symposium that two days earlier, the Lahore office of Aaj Kal had received a letter from the extremists threatening the daily — as a last warning — of forcibly shutting it down.
Protest: He vowed nonetheless to continue the paper’s editorial policy as an exclusive right, and not bow before the extremists’ threats. He also announced to hold a peaceful protest outside the Lahore Press Club on July 21 against the rising intolerance in society.
Sethi said the extremists had tried to “strangulate” Aaj Kal’s circulation in the FATA, Swat and the Peshawar area by issuing threats to the paper’s offices.
SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam observed that nothing has changed after the February 18 elections, as President Musharraf and the political scene in general is almost the same as before the polls.
PFUJ Secretary General Mazhar Abbas said the journalists’ community would continue their fight against the government and non-state actors for the freedom of press.
Source: Daily Times