Thursday June 13, 2024

Moot asks govt to legislate for protecting Sindh’s media persons

By Zia Ur Rehman
April 25, 2017

While the federal government is about to adopt a bill for the safety and security of journalists, a number of Sindh lawmakers, journalists, academics and legal experts agree on drafting and adopting a similar bill for media persons of the province.

A post-draft advocacy consultation titled ‘Review of Media Safety Bill with Key Stakeholders’ was organised on Monday by the Freedom Network (FN) and the Pakistan Coalition on Media Legal Reforms.

The participants stressed on the government for appropriate legislation for the safety of journalists in the province. They were told that Pakistan ranked among the five most deadly countries for journalists and was placed 147th out of 180 states in the World Press Freedom Index 2016 compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

They were also informed that since 2000, around 110 journalists and media persons had been killed in Pakistan: 31 in Balochistan, 27 in Sindh, 26 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 24 in Fata; moreover, some 2,000 journalists and media persons had been attacked, injured or arrested.

Iqbal Khattak, a senior journalist currently associated with FN, said the media sector and civil society organisations had in recent years rallied to advocate a safer environment for professional and non-professional journalists as well as suggested a draft of recommendations to improve the situation.

Adnan Rehmat, an Islamabad-based media development specialist, said Pakistan, which endorsed the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issues of Impunity in 2013, had been one of the five pilot countries selected for the action plan.

“The UN plan of action, besides endorsing and ratifying, recommends mapping of 200 UN Journalists Safety Indicators and submitting an annual report on media freedom,” he said, adding that Pakistan, however, was yet to submit the annual report.

As the Centre agreed to adopt the bill for the safety of journalists, Rehmat continued, security had become a provincial subject and it was now necessary that the provincial administrations also adopt a similar bill, but it should be tailored according to each province’s specific law and order situation.

Discussing the draft of the provincial journalists’ safety law, he said the appointment of a special persecutor dedicated to investigating attacks on the media and leading the legal fight against impunity could be its mechanism. “A journalists’ safety council should also be established in the province for their safety and compensation.”

He described the composition of the seven-member council as follows: two MPAs (one from the government and the other from the opposition to be nominated by the speaker of the provincial legislature) president (by designation) of the primary provincial union of journalists, president (by designation) of the principal press club of the province, a media safety expert, a civil society representative and a special prosecutor as member executive.

Prominent among the consultation’s other participants were Transport Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan MPA Diwan Chand Chawla, Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Khairunnisa Mughal, Muhammad Khan Buriro (a legal practitioner who was prosecutor in journalist Wali Khan Babar’s murder case), Awami Awaz Editor Jabbar Khattak, Kamal Siddiqi (director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration), Karachi Union of Journalists General Secretary Fahim Siddiqui, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas and academic Dr Tausif Ahmed Khan.