Media continues to be on trial: Hamid Mir | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Media continues to be on trial: Hamid Mir

Pakistan Press Foundation

LAHORE: Award-winning journalist and columnist Hamid Mir said on Sunday the media in Pakistan continued to face oppression in one form or another.

“The government has changed but the situation (state of media) remains the same,” he emphatically said at a session — Media under Siege in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan — on the last day of the 4th Asma Jahangir Conference 2022 at a local hotel. Journalist Arifa Noor moderated the well-attended session.

Mr Mir started off by apologising to Committee to Protect Journalists Senior Program Consultant Steven Butler for the inconvenience he had to face on arrival at the Lahore airport.

He lamented that the distinguished guest’s name was put on the ‘stop list’ back in 2019 and he was deported. The only difference this time round was that he was allowed to move around freely after eight hours on ‘intervention’ and later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif conveyed his apology to him.

“The episode pretty much sums up what kind of country Pakistan is for journalists,” he remarked.

It’s a matter of regret, he said, that Pakistan had gone south in the Press Freedom Index. He recalled that he and other journalists were targeted in the previous government and he was denigrated and labelled traitor. Worse still, he said, some of the media men openly stood with the government and criticised him.

Now these very journalists were facing the wrath of the powers that be and, as a matter of principle, he was against such a treatment irrespective of whichever organisation they belong to.

“The government has no right to deny the fundamental right of freedom of expression to anyone,” he said and called for abolition of draconian laws such as The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance 2022.

Steven Butler cleared the air by saying the Ministry of Interior (MoI) invited him to Pakistan and it was only a lack of communication between the departments or officials concerned. The FIA did stop him for eight hours at the airport, he said, but there was no interrogation. He said that as a representative of the CPJ, all he was concerned about was the safety and protection of journalists.

Daniel Bastard, Asia-Pacific Director of Reporters without Borders, also shared facts and figures about the plight of media professionals in the aforementioned countries.

Malini Subramaniam (India) read out a paper highlighting the cases of journalists who faced trials and tribulations while Dilrukshi Handunnetti (Sri Lanka) spoke virtually and shared the situation in her country.

The speakers unanimously called upon the governments to give the media professionals respect and acknowledge their contributions instead of subjecting them to ignominy. They paid tribute to the late Asma Jahangir to whom the event was dedicated.

Source: Dawn

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