Tuesday December 05, 2023

IHC questions environment of fear for journalists

September 06, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah Monday questioned an environment of fear and terror for journalists and expressed confidence that the government will encourage freedom of speech and take measures for protection of their rights.

He passed these remarks while hearing a case related to the grievances and cases of journalists. The case was filed by the PFUJ and Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Shahira Shahid. The case hearing was adjourned till September 30.

Justice Minallah said speaking seemed to be the biggest crime in the country adding that earlier one set of journalists was targeted and now another set of journalists was facing the same situation.

He said such tactics had been used since the creation of Pakistan but they had never been effective. The judge remarked that he had confidence in the prime minister and the federal government that they would end the environment of fear among journalists.

PFUJ’s lawyer Shah Khawar Advocate and Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Dogal appeared in the court. At the outset of hearing, the PFUJ’s lawyer contended that the information ministry had given prompt response on the matter but it was still awaited from the interior ministry.

Justice Minallah remarked that one set of journalists was targeted before the incumbent government came into power and now another set of journalists had become the target. He questioned why an environment of fear and terror was there for journalists all the time.

“For the last few years, it seemed that speaking was the biggest crime. If someone talked wrong, then they could be arrested, but shutting down the entire channel was not the right act. It was good that the channel had been restored,” he added.

He further noted that a case was also registered against a journalist in Punjab to which the PFUJ President Afzal Butt said an FIR of blasphemy was registered against journalist Waqar Satti.

This was the first time in history that a case of blasphemy had been registered against a journalist. The chief justice said the court could form a commission on this matter but it had confidence in the prime minister and the federal government that they would end this fear.

Justice Minallah said in a letter of UNO, it was noted that a journalist was hit by a bullet. Speaking was the biggest crime of journalists, he said, adding that nothing like this was happening in foreign countries.

“Why was it happening here,” he asked, and suggested that the federal government should sit with journalists and make a mechanism. If someone commits a crime, they must be booked, but only the state would do it, the court observed, adding that it shouldn’t happen that 50 FIRs were registered against a journalist across the country on same charges.

Justice Minallah said the court expected that the federal government will take measures to protect the rights of journalists. He further said secretary information should satisfy the court that the concerns of journalists had been addressed.

The additional attorney general told the court that the Journalists Protection Bill was before the federal cabinet and would be implemented soon. The hearing was adjourned till September 30. The court also instructed the information ministry to submit a report on journalists’ matters on the next date.