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October 4, 2018

PFUJ demands MPs body to cope with ban on media houses

National

October 4, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Executive Council of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) after its three-day deliberations held in Abbottabad reached the conclusion that the press freedom in Pakistan is under great threat as there is an unannounced censorship across the country, says a PFUJ press release.

The meeting believed while the new elected government has no role in this unannounced censorship yet its silence speaks of complicity in this matter and in spite of the widespread protest on this issue, both inside and outside the country, the new government is just ignoring the issue and avoiding to confront those institutions who are systematically trying to silence the print and electronic media through coercion, control on advertisement, harassment and even carrying attacks on the journalists.

The distribution of many national newspapers is being hampered in certain areas while the leading channels are being taken off-air or the cable operators are being forced to change the numbering of some famous channels ---- all in an effort to control the media houses through these coercive methods.The journalists are not being allowed to report independently either in Balochistan or in the tribal areas. Dozens of journalists have been harassed, attacked and even killed in Pakistan but the perpetrators of these attacks have not even been traced yet. Sometimes, police plainly refuse to investigate the attacks after one pretext or the other because of pressure from certain quarters.

This meeting also notes that the resistance journalism is also dying its natural death because of the prevailing situation and most of the journalists and media houses have started imposing self-censorship.

This meeting also believes that another reason for the debacle of freedom of expression is the corporatization of media sector. Since corporatization of this sector, the media owners have taken over the charge of the editors or chief editors in their news rooms and thus the institution of editor, which had played an important role in the freedom of press and freedom of expression, has been eliminated from this industry.

Regrettably, the resistance in society as a whole has also stopped. Similarly, Parliament, which reflects the will of the people, is too much politically divided hence has failed to put up resistance and force the government to ensure freedom of expression, without which democracy becomes a farce. It is thus in its own interest that Parliament should raise its collective voice while remaining above party politics to protect freedom of expression, which is under grave threat.

This meeting also believes that the journalists in particular and society as a whole is scared and it has lost hope from the judiciary which has so far provided no relief to the journalists community in cases where media workers have been kidnapped, harassed or physically attacked.

The society as a whole is becoming intolerant, extremist and militant. In such circumstances the job of a journalist in Pakistan is becoming even more difficult.

"We believe that that freedom of expression is not the fight of journalists alone but that of the entire society. Every segment of the society, be it journalists, lawyers, civil society, political parties or judiciary has to stand up and put up resistance against the coercive measures being used to stifle the voice of media in Pakistan. Judiciary’s responsibility becomes more in strengthening freedom of expression in this country as provided under the Constitution of Pakistan," the press release said.

The PFUJ called upon all political parties present in the National Assembly and Senate to form a Parliamentary Committee comprising members from both Houses of the Parliament to consider the threats being faced by the media in Pakistan and the unannounced censorship imposed on media houses before it is too late. The Committee should invite all stakeholders to listen to their grievances and also members of the civil society to its hearings. "We are hopeful that all the political parties would rise above their political differences on this issue and form this Parliamentary Committee," the press release said.

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