Journalistic Freedom | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Journalistic Freedom

Pakistan Press Foundation

The top court’s suo moto and subsequent hearing into the notices issued by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to journalists has come with some much-needed reminders. The emphasis of the Chief Justice of Pakistan on protecting the right of journalists to criticise is rightly placed in the larger picture of not just individual freedom of expression but also the freedom of the press and media. For fair criticism, there should not be any legal repercussions. If this is done, journalists will have no incentive left to uphold the truth and hold democratic institutions accountable through fair and unbiased journalism.

FIA issued notices to thirty-two journalists after the Ministry of Interior decided to probe the malicious online campaign where the top judiciary was verbally abused. However, CJ Qazi Faez Isa maintained a clear distinction between intended verbal abuse and journalistic criticism. Calling to withdraw all notices issued to journalists is telling that the top seat of justice in the country adheres to the democratic norms where press autonomy and freedom are fundamental for democratic checks and accountability of politicians, officeholders, and institutions.

Intimidation or harassment of journalists for honest and fair criticism is a trend that can only erode democracy. If this criticism is completely eliminated, what remains behind is a trajectory where institutions and people in power tend to become more autocratic. In this light, SC’s suo moto and decision is a good precedent that will help to safeguard journalists. The call for a balance between the dignity of individuals and freedom of speech aligns with the principles of the Constitution, emphasising the need for responsible journalism.

Journalistic ethics have become more fluid in a post-truth world. Reporting standards have also shifted considerably since social media has taken centre stage. What remains constant, however, is the prime function that media and journalists must perform – responsible journalism where criticism of the institutions must be distinct from maligning or harming them. The judiciary’s acknowledgement of the intimidation journalists face is crucial at this time when the media landscape of the country is pretty much compromised due to political polarity and instability.

Source: The Nation (Editorial)

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