Journalists protection bill

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Presiding over a meeting in Karachi the other day, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah announced a number of measures for welfare of journalists’ community including the Sindh Journalists Protection Bill saying it is to be tabled in next meeting of provincial cabinet.

A strong and independent media is essential to good governance and social progress. Given its role, the media is rightly recognised as fourth pillar of the state.

However the matter of concern is that our journalists are faced with whole lot of threats including harassment, intimidation, killings and so on.

In this backdrop, the Sindh government has taken a step in the right direction to come up with a bill for their protection. It should however not serve mere a piece of paper but instead serve its objectives.

It will be better for provincial government to also take inputs from journalists’ bodies in order to make it more effective.

According to a widely respected media watchdog, the Freedom Network, Sindh is three times riskier region for journalists than any other province and the Capital territory.

The nature of threats posed to journalists in interior Sindh and urban Sindh is altogether different.

In interior Sindh journalists largely feel threatened while covering violent clashes between tribes, particularly on issues relating to honour killing.

Also feudal mindset still largely exists in the interior and that is why they create lot of problems for working journalists.

Hence, the legislation on part of Sindh government should be comprehensive that really gives a sense of security to journalists.

At federal level also, PTI government was considering coming up with such a bill and we expect that it will soon be tabled in Parliament for approval in order to address major concerns of the journalists.

In our view, first and the most obvious step to ensure journalists’ safety is provision of justice in preceding cases of killings of journalists.

There has been a mushroom growth in media over the last two decades yet reporters and cameramen still lack basic training as to how to work in hostile environments.

Any piece of legislation should not only provide them health insurance but also envisage training programmes that equip them with all necessary skills.