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Wednesday April 24, 2024

Call for young journalists to unite to achieve genuine democracy

By News Desk
August 02, 2023

Senior journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, academics and sociologists have called upon young journalists to unite and restore journalist trade unions, with the aim of achieving genuine freedom of expression and democracy.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday held a round-table discussion at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on the current situation of media workers, media laws, and the challenges faced by journalists and media professionals.

Journalists & Media Practitioners Commission Chairperson Rasheed A Razvi emphasised the need for sensitising media workers to address the ongoing crisis. He opined that only those passionate about restoring workers’ rights should join the media, criticising “ghee, mill and bakery owners” who establish media firms without any interest in restoring democracy. He pointed out that the precarious condition of media workers has exacerbated the democratic crisis in the country.

Prof Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh suggested that media persons adopt a collective discourse. He remarked that the state lacks resources to address media issues and even to pay their own media institutions’ salaries. Noting the changing international scenario since 1991, he pointed out that the neo-liberal economy and the collapse of the welfare state system have set new values. “A collective discourse for implementing freedom of expression is the need of the hour.”

Veteran journalist Sohail Sangi argued that new media laws have worsened the current situation, advocating for the enforcement of existing laws rather than introducing new ones.

He criticised the current media bill, calling it a “license for corruption”, and lamented the lack of a regulatory body to curb corruption among journalists. He also highlighted that divisions within journalist unions need immediate resolution, urging them to join hands with peasantry and other trade union bodies.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas decried a consistent decline in the journalist community, attributing it partly to contractual employment. He expressed disappointment over the community’s reluctance to take a stand for freedom of expression, and voiced concerns about corruption among young journalists.

Trade union activist and senior journalist Hassan Abbas bemoaned the reduced role of unions and lack of workers’ rights due to the third-party contract system. He advised all unions to unite and educate workers about their rights to prevent further deterioration of the system.

Trade union activist Mir Zulfiqar underscored the weakness in trade unionism among journalists, urging them to join trade union bodies.

The PFUJ’s AH Khanzada concurred with Abbas, urging all trade unions to overcome mutual distrust and start a collective struggle. He called upon young journalists to uphold media ethics to achieve true freedom of expression.

Journalist Lubna Jerar acknowledged the weakness of media bodies and stressed the need for stronger media trade unionism. She pointed out that workers are often unaware of the legal framework due to failures in trade unionism.

KPC President Saeed Sarbazi bemoaned the current state where the advertisement department decides news content instead of the editor. He advocated for establishing a mechanism to promote unity among journalists.

Awami Awaz Editor Dr Jabbar Khattak suggested understanding the media dynamics and new technology to comprehend media-related issues. He emphasised the need for data on unemployed journalists to plan future actions for media workers.

Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan said that new media laws represent a stricter regulation on media practitioners that can potentially stifle free expression and impose unnecessary constraints on the press.

HRCP Co-chairperson Asad Butt said he believes that freedom of expression and democratic values are cornerstones of any progressive society, and that any measures taken to limit these rights pose a significant risk to the democratic fabric of the nation.