The government is creating a big obstacle to creating a commission for the safety of journalists
News: Pakistan is one of the countries where journalism is dangerous because there is no punishment for those who torture journalists and no decision is taken in such cases. Taking into account this situation, laws on the protection of journalists and other mass media workers and ensuring freedom of speech were adopted and have been waiting to be implemented for two years.
The profession of journalism in the country is becoming more and more dangerous. Journalists face threats such as physical violence and murder in the course of their professional duties.
Journalists around the world are harassed and tortured for some investigative work by the country’s special services, terrorist and militant groups, and secret forces.
In Pakistan, under laws aimed at protecting journalists, journalists are exempted from disclosing information sources for any investigative reporting. It is another matter that journalists do not reveal their sources even when they are physically abused during investigations. In a private channel program, Hamid Mir recounted the story of August 1990, which informed the decision to dismiss Benazir Bhutto’s government. The message had just been given, it had not been published, and people were calling from the office to see it. When they reached the reception, several people covered them with blankets and took them to an unknown place. Their first question is, where did the message you give come from? Hamid Mir was physically abused for not revealing his source. Hamid Mir says he understands which organization kidnapped him. After a short interrogation, he was released.
But in today’s modern era, journalists are kidnapped and disappear for days and months. Salim Shahzad, a young man from Karachi, moved to Islamabad because the federal capital might be a safe place, but he was also taken away from the “safe” city. His body was later found in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin.
It is not easy to describe such painful events. If journalists are legally protected, why are government agencies unable to stop the forces behind the scenes?
According to Article 19 of the Constitution, it is declared the responsibility of the state to protect the life and property of journalists. Under the Protection of Journalists and Media Practitioners Act, the government will ensure that existing or future laws related to terrorism or national security are not used to harass or silence journalists. The government is responsible for ensuring that no journalist is abducted or tortured while performing their journalistic duties.
On 28 May 2021, the Sindh Assembly unanimously approved the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Bill, 2021. Then, in November 2021, the Law on the Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners was passed at the federal level. However, even though more than a year has passed, this law has not been implemented in the remaining three provinces. Why are journalists from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan deprived of this legal protection? Do journalists and human rights organizations of the remaining three regions have the task of organizing a shield for themselves?
At the federal level, the Law “Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners” was passed, but according to it, a commission had to be created, which is obliged to protect journalists. This commission will have the powers of a civil court. This commission will have one representative of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists from all four provinces. It will be joined by one representative from the National Press Club and one representative from each regional press club. One representative from the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Information will be included in the composition of this commission, and there will be at least three women in the composition of the commission. The chairman of the commission will be a retired judge or lawyer. The chairman has 20 years of experience in his field.
This commission, which is created for the protection of journalists and media representatives, independent investigation, and quick resolution of complaints, will present all the information, and the commission is obliged to decide on it within 14 days. As for the powers of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists, this commission is a separate court. The commission has the right to summon any person and request documents or reports from any institution during the investigation of the incident. In addition, the proposed law obliges media owners to provide personal safety training to each journalist within one year of employment.
Hamid Mir, a senior journalist associated with Geo News, was killed in April 2014 and his brother Aamir Mir blamed the intelligence chief for the attack. Hamid Mir has not received justice till date. Hamid Mir also threatened attacks and demanded that he leave the country.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also formed a three-judge commission of the Supreme Court to investigate the incident, but unfortunately, neither those accused by Amir Mir nor Hamid appeared before the commission. Mir received the commission’s report. until today. It is a pity that in the report of the commission created by the Prime Minister, the elements behind the attack on the great journalist were not revealed, how can we hope to protect?
Journalists carrying out journalistic duties across the country are not limited by provincial boundaries but still represent their respective provinces. Since the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, all powers have been transferred to the provinces.
Aftab Alam, executive director of the Research and Development Institute, says that after the 18th Amendment, provinces were barred from providing police protection for journalists’ safety, including torture and kidnapping. and mental torture.Also responsible for the investigation.
Sher Ali, a journalist associated with The News, has been doing investigative work for a long time. He said that the journalist community is active for the Journalists Protection Act in Punjab but it is sad to say that the politicians are not taking this issue seriously. According to the “Security” law, the top management of civil society, journalists, and press clubs held meetings with the government and opposition representatives, where the problems of journalists during their work, the killing of journalists, kidnapping for money, torture, and abduction from their homes were discussed. etc. events were also reported.
The recent arrests of journalists like Matiullah Jan, Shahid Aslam, Asad Toor, Siddique Jan, Imad Yusuf, and Bilal Farooqui have made it clear that the journalist’s source cannot be questioned in violation of this law, but here the Ganges are flowing.
In Shahid Aslam’s case, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) official himself told the court that “the phones and computers were seized and sent for forensic examination to find out the passwords”.
Journalist Asad Too was attacked by three men in his apartment in the F-11 sector of Islamabad, tied hands and feet, and left with a cloth in his mouth. But this law could not harm the attackers.
Two years have passed since Sindh enacted laws to protect journalists at the federal and provincial levels, but the central part is still incomplete, meaning the existence of the Security Commission is limited to documents. Commissions were established, and journalists’ lives did not become easier.
According to a report released by the Freedom Network, in 2021, despite laws passed to protect the lives and property of journalists, 11 journalists were killed in the country and about 70 journalists faced threats, lawsuits, and violence. The question is, will journalists report? If it is said that journalists belonging to small towns have never reported, then there is no doubt. Journalists working in waders, flats, and investor areas, do they report to the police to protect themselves? The Freedom Network report gives some confirmation that the capital, Islamabad, has the highest number of cases at 56, accounting for 40 percent. One of the reasons for this is that journalists do not have much resistance to reporting here
Aftab Alam says that since the law was passed in 2021, the commission has not been formed because of the obstacles between the information department and the human rights commission. As for the unofficial members of the commission, including members of the press club, representatives of the bar council, and journalists, all of them were selected. Even the names of the chairman of the commission have been agreed to some extent. It sours because of the lack of consensus in two federal institutions, the Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. You may recall that when this law was introduced, Shireen Mazari and then Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry did not agree on this bill. Recently, the Assembly of People’s Representatives amended this law and removed the powers of the Human Rights Commission from it.
Chairman of Pakistan Journalists Association Fawzia Kulsoom Rana said: “If the composition of this commission is revealed, the members of the press club will also be part of the security commission.” Let me make one thing clear here, the Press Club has two women in key positions, including vice president, joint secretary, and executive. Fauzia Kulsum also attended the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Commission on the Safety of Journalists. In it, he proposed “the participation of female journalists in the composition of regional and federal commissions.” If a commission is established to ensure the safety of journalists, many journalists will be able to carry out their duties without fear.
Islamabad Press Club President Anwar Raza said that as per the Commission Act, the names of four PFUJ secretaries, the Press Club General Secretary, and the Secretary of the Supreme Court Correspondents Association have been sent to the government, while Adam Sohail Ministry. Among the members of this commission is Ali Khan from the Rights. “This commission is being delayed by the government.” The Law for the Protection of Journalists and Media Practitioners has been enacted at the federal level for journalists, but journalists are not aware of this law. The reason for this is that a training seminar for journalists has not been organized in this area.
Reporters Without Borders has published its 2022 press freedom statistics, which show that 28 of 180 countries have the worst conditions for journalists’ freedom. Russia is a country where state institutions fully control the press. According to the information, among the countries where the freedom of journalists is a question mark, Pakistan is in 150th place, and India is in 161st place.
Despite the laws, journalists do not report incidents of intimidation or harassment, limiting them to gossiping with friends and social networks. And according to clause “A” of Article 19 of the Constitution, every citizen has the right to receive information related to the public interest.
Source: Geo Tv