Wednesday September 27, 2023

Protecting journalists

By Editorial Board
February 29, 2020

The PTI government, for reasons which are not easy to understand, seems reluctant to push ahead with the Journalists Protection Bill, a law that would help protect working journalists in the field. The country badly needs such a law given the various cases involving the killing of journalists as well as torture and intimidation. During the last three decades, nearly 70 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the country and of these cases only three have been solved. Recently, two more journalists were killed in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bill, originally prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights, was approved of by the Editors for Safety, a broad forum made up of newspaper editors, directors of TV channels and those running social media outlets.

The bill was put before the federal cabinet on Tuesday but the federal cabinet instead decided to put together the bill with the previous draft prepared by the Ministry of Information and send it to the ministry for vetting. Journalists believe that the bill originally written by the Ministry of Information provides few safeguards and that a law which protects journalists from threats and intimidation is essential if they are to be enabled to carry out their professional duties. They have demanded the government immediately present the version of the bill written out by the Ministry of Human Rights before parliament so that it can be converted into law and implemented to protect media professionals. Journalists, particularly those who work in the field on the frontlines of news, such as reporters and cameramen, are frequently subjected to danger and many have faced threats from criminal gangs, drug mafias, other mafias and political forces acting as a group or from influential individuals.

In this situation, it is almost impossible to provide unbiased news and all the details linked to it to citizens. This in turn hinders the rights of citizens to information, a right enshrined in the constitution. The government’s tense relationship with the media has been spoken of again and again. It is essential this bill be passed and discussed in parliament to iron out any loopholes so that media professionals can be protected and enabled to carry out their crucial duties of bringing unbiased news before people, making it possible for them to make judgments and gain the solid information they need to do so.