Speakers call for lifting curbs on media
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ISLAMABAD, Nov 19: Speakers on Monday criticised the government for slapping curbs on media and advocated for allowing the independent media organisations to work in an objective and unhindered manner for providing information to the public.
Speaking at a seminar on “Restrictions on media and citizens’ right to information”, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here, they lamented all successive governments for twisting the arms of the media for ulterior motives.
They accused the government of blackmailing media owners for signing a one-sided code of conduct/undertaking and lamented the closure of two private TV news channels.
Senior journalists, Nusrat Javed and Matiullah Jan, Mukhtar Ahmad Ali of the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives- Pakistan (CPDI), and Naeem Mirza of the Aurat Foundation, were among the speakers.
Mr Javed, applauding the struggle of mediapersons, hoped that it would continue till the fundamental rights were restored and media was free. “We will not bow to the coercive measures of the government and will fight until the goal is achieved,” he said.
He said it was the post March 9 situation of the country and role of media that eventually brought together the civil-military bureaucracy to initiate a crackdown on some television channels and mediapersons by blocking TV channels and blackmailing their owners, to compromise on their already-limited freedom they had.
Citing the proactive role of the judiciary, especially the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, he said, it were the civil bureaucracy’s problems with the superior judiciary and Gen Musharraf’s obsession to remain in power that had forced them to take the unconstitutional measures of Nov 3.
Mukhtar Ahmad Ali urged the government to lift all bans on the media and re-open TV channels, adding that the freedom of information was a recognized right of citizens, under the Article of 9 of the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN.
He lamented that government departments had been practising a deep-rooted culture of secrecy, reminiscent of colonial times, rigorously applying rules, regulations and laws to restrict public access to information. Comparing the Freedom of Information Act of India and Pakistan, he said the situation in India was far better and there were several exemplary cases where citizens had successfully utilised the right to information and held the government accountable.