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September 14, 2019

Guidebook on legal landscape for media launched


September 14, 2019

A Pakistani media policy research and advocacy non-profit organisation, Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), launched a new guidebook to explore legal landscape for media in Pakistan at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.

The guidebook titled ‘The Legal Landscape for Media’ is meant to inform journalists about laws that criminalise and regulate freedom of expression in Pakistan. The guidebook will act as a primary resource for Pakistani journalists to raise their awareness about laws and regulations that could potentially affect freedom of expression and press freedom.

MMfD’s Programme Manager Hija Kamran briefed journalists about the legal framework outlined in the guidebook. She explained how the book highlights that while certain local laws were not passed to counter free speech, and that these have routinely been used to attack the fundamental rights to free speech and free press.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the challenges and legal repercussions faced by Pakistani journalists for their news reporting moderated by journalist Sindhu Abbasi. Journalists Lubna Jerar Naqvi said editorial policies for news organisations should be in the hands of the editor.

She said social media in Pakistan continued to amplify voices even though they were witnessing the crackdown on journalism intensifying. “Even then, self-censorship [among journalists] has increased multi-fold because of the regulations constantly stifling free expression,” she said. “Something that you could’ve spoken about in the past without any problem, you can’t talk about it now.”

Samaa English web editor Ismail Sheikh said editorial policies keep evolving with new regulations forced on editors at news channels. “Once it was not allowed to speak about a certain terrorist outfit, but then the ban was lifted.”

He said there had been multiple instances where he had to change news or even take it down because someone did not agree with it. Karachi Union of Journalists Vice-President Naimatullah Bukhari was of the opinion that journalists and editors did not manage the news anymore.

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