Towards PFUJ unity
THE moves to unite the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists after a split that has persisted for an agonising 37 years deserve to be welcomed. Attended by some of the country’s most senior journalists, Saturday’s meeting in Islamabad could turn out to be seminal if the three groups sink their differences and work towards giving Pakistan’s journalists the professional unity they have been desperately waiting for. The split occurred first in 1977 when the Ziaul Haq government trumpeted ‘ideology’ to divide the journalists and weaken a powerful body like the PFUJ led by the redoubtable Minhaj Barna. The second split occurred more recently over elections within the Barna faction. This three-way split has done enormous harm to the community of journalists and has helped no one but the government and newspaper managements. How the three groups proceed and manage a merger will constitute a test of their leadership and commitment to the cause of media freedom and the rights of the media community. Even though a breakthrough has been achieved, major hurdles remain to be overcome, such as laying down professional criteria for working journalists.
The two goals that will obviously be the priority of the new PFUJ leadership are to safeguard the rights and interests of media persons and to endeavour to improve the quality of journalism. This is no easy task at a time when Pakistan’s powerful and expanding media faces new challenges arising from the mushrooming of TV channels and the attempts by the establishment, political parties and non-state actors to bribe and threaten journalists. Big money is now playing a major role in influencing the working of journalists and media groups. It is also targeting young journalists with little or no knowledge of the PFUJ’s foundation documents and its code of ethics. Until its split, the PFUJ was a powerful body that had earned recognition from the state and newspaper owners as the sole representative of Pakistan’s media community. It is time the PFUJ reclaimed its lost glory.