Journalists and representatives of various organizations working for media have asked the government to hold extensive consultation on the draft legislation of “Bill on Journalists Safety and Welfare” before it is tabled in parliament.
Speaking at a seminar organized at the National Press Club and Freedom Network jointly, representatives of the journalists’ rights organizations regretted that the government was keeping the draft a secret despite repeated demands of sharing the draft by the journalist community.
The speakers also expressed disappointment that no one from the government or any political party bothered to come and speak on the subject at the event. Our legitimate concerns need to be addressed, said one of the speakers.
“Only the journalists know the dynamics involved in the problems they face and solutions to these problems. Those who have never been in the field could not understand the ground situation,” said President National Press Club Shakeel Anjum.
Media analyst Adnan Rehmat said that according to UNESCO statistics, 642 journalists have been killed around the world from 2005 to 2015 and among them 10 per cent belonged to Pakistan.
He said that under the Action Plan of United Nations on the Safety of Journalists and Impunity Issues 2012, the UN passed a resolution declaring attack on journalists as an attack on democracy. The state parties who rectify the resolution have to submit a yearly report to the UN on the situation of journalists’ safety in their county. “Pakistan accepted that resolution in 2013 but no report has been submitted to the UN yet,” he said.
Adnan said that journalists face threat from state and non-state actors as well as government functionaries. He said that among 107 journalists killed in Pakistan, the cases of only eight succeeded in reaching the court and conviction was made in only three cases including Daniel Pearl, Wali Khan Babar and Ayub Khattak. “In all other cases, the attackers were never identified,” he said. He demanded the government to pass the Safety Law from provincial assemblies simultaneously and also address the issues related to work place safety for women journalists in the bill.
President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Adhoc Committee Muhammad Riaz urged journalists to fight for their rights. He pointed out journalists community fails to raise strong voice for their rights mainly because of the lack of awareness about their rights. He criticized the government for not appointing judge for Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) for past two years. He also demanded immediate implementation of seventh Wage Award.
President Quetta Press Club Shazada Zulfiqar talked about the issues faced by working journalists in Balochistan. The participants passed a resolution asking the government to share the draft of “Bill on Journalists Safety and Welfare” with the working journalists and ensure that the law is made according to the standards of UN Plan of Action for Journalists’ Safety.