‘Press freedom under threat in Pakistan’
ISLAMABAD (February 26 2007): The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFJU) and the International Union of Journalists (IUJ) held a roundtable discussion on the ‘State of press freedom in Pakistan’ here on Saturday.
Minister of State for Information, Tariq Azeem, and opposition leaders Raza Rabbani, of PPPP, and Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, of MMA, were also present. The journalists’ bodies adopted a resolution, which said, “The right to press and broadcasting freedom, as well as freedom of expression, is fundamental in a civilized state. We believe these freedoms are under threat in Pakistan, and action must be taken to ensure they are not lost.”
The resolution said: “There are three principal areas of concern where decisive action must be take. These are security, continuing killing, kidnapping and harassment of journalists in Pakistan. These are intolerable and must be ceased.
“We call on the Pakistan government to make a clear and unequivocal statement that threats of any kind to media workers will not be tolerated. No journalist shall be pressured to report in a certain way for fear of physical harm or through financial considerations. Particular emphasis for the security of journalist shall be placed by the government in Fata.
“We demand that crime against journalists should be investigated thoroughly and scrupulously to determine what links their occupation may have with the offence. “Labour issues: Journalists or workers therefore, have the right to a contract and security of employment. We believe Pakistan should adopt ILO requirements.
“Despite passing of the 7th Wage Award, we condemn its non-implementation as an attack on the profession of journalism. We demand its immediate adoption by all media employers. No journalist should be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race and religion and age.
“Government: The government of Pakistan must ensure that all contracts and advertising with the media are distributed without favour. We urge the adoption of fair and transparent criteria to ensure compliance of such a policy. Access to official government information should be opened equally to all media.”
GOVERNMENT’S POINT OF VIEW:
Taking part in the discussion, Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem said that the present government fully believes in the freedom of press, broadcasting and expression, and is doing its very best to protect these fundamental rights.
He said the government has thoroughly investigated the incidents of violence against media and journalists and has taken necessary action.
He said that the government has been impressing upon the owners of newspapers and periodicals to implement the 7th Wage Board Award during the past three years.
He said that the government, which gave several concessions to the newspaper industry in the 2006-07 budget in the shape of duties and increase in advertisement rates, has now offered even to bear 50 percent of the additional financial burden through direct support or increased advertisement quota if the newspaper owners implemented the much-delayed Award.
He said the government is holding another meeting with the newspaper owners in about three weeks’ time and it is hoped that the issue would be amicably settled.
Source: Business Recorder