‘Press not as free as claimed by govt’
LAHORE – The government should lift curbs on mediamen’s visit to Wana and Waziristan so that the people could know what was actually happening there.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan director I. A. Rehman said at a seminar in Lahore on October 5, that the press did not enjoy as much freedom as claimed by the government.
The two-day seminar on ‘Media law for journalists’ was organized by the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) at a private university. Mr Rehman said the press laws had certain clauses to control the press advising it what to publish and what not.
The government had closed down five dailies in Karachi on charges of obscenity and intimidated and arrested several journalists for exposing the government’s excesses against the masses. Some of them were even denied bail, he added.
Mr Rehman said the government had to withdraw the strict clause of the Special Defamation law, 2002, on the public pressure, otherwise it could have been used against the editors, reporters and printers.
Barrister Iain Christie gave a detailed presentation on human rights norms concerning freedom of expression. He said the laws should be implemented to stop violation of human rights.
He said the laws relevant to media should provide freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination and right to life. Curbs like contempt of court should be lifted, he said.
Mr Christie urged journalists not to forget professional ethics while discharging their duties and should not misuse the freedom of expression. They should protect national security, morals and prevent disorder or crime. Besides, he said it was the responsibility of a journalist to act in good faith to provide accurate information in accordance with the ethics of journalism.
Karachi University lecturer Zahid Ebrahim highlighted contempt of court issues which were affecting journalists. The Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, had restricted journalists to report the courts proceedings with certain limitations.
Mary Russell, a group legal adviser at Associated Newspapers Limited, London, presented a 10-point criteria for responsible journalism. She said the subject of an article/news story should be a matter of genuine public interest. A journalist should provide information to readers in a fair, reasonable and even-handed manner and without malice.
She said a journalist should counter check information provided to him by the source. Dr Mehdi Hasan criticized the government for imposing curbs on the press. He regretted that the judiciary had playing in the hands of government. Human right activists, journalists, teachers and students attended the seminar.