A Democracy cannot function without a Free Press

May 7, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan

EPA photo

 

By

Muhammad Shoaib Khan

 

 

In a roundtable discussion hosted by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC), participants adopted a resolution reaffirming their resolve to uphold the freedom of media and expression in Pakistan and ensure the safety of Pakistani journalists.

 

Participants included journalists and civil society representatives, pledged their support to the 10-point ‘Islamabad Declaration’. Political leaders representing the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) also supported the resolution on behalf of their parties.

 

The declaration condemned all incidents of covert and overt threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists. It also condemned the crackdown on digital expression of journalists and political workers through direct and indirect means, and calls for reforms in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

 

All political leaders, who attended the discussion, supported press freedom but also called for responsible reporting and accountability for fake news. Speakers also said that there is also a great responsibility on the press to report with accuracy and integrity. They said that the journalists should be held accountable for their reporting just as politicians should be held accountable for their conduct.

 

The journalist-community’s suggestions have been included in a draft bill on journalist safety and journalists should push the government for passage of the bill.

 

Whereas political parties stance was that no one could disagree with the Islamabad Declaration supports the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

 

There should be no compromise on the respect and dignity of the press. We 100% support that there should be no pressure, political or otherwise, on the respect, dignity and journalistic identity of Pakistani journalists. But journalists should consider the national interest in the pursuit of their professional duties.

 

Dr. Fauzia Hameed of the PSP said respect for free speech is important to development of democratic attitudes in society.

 

Executive Director MMfD Asad Baig said the World Press Freedom Day calls attention to the contemporary challenges to press freedom in Pakistan. He said the 2018 international day is especially significant given it is election year in Pakistan.

 

“Elections are just around the corner,” Mr. Baig said. “Our goal is to reaffirm that the media is free to report on political activities before and after the elections.”

 

 

Declaration:

2nd May 2018

 

 

Islamabad Declaration on 

Freedom of Media and Expression, and the Rights of the Journalists

 

We, the participants of stakeholder meeting on press freedoms, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2018, compelled by our relative responsibilities towards Pakistani journalists, guided by the commitments made to the United Nations, through the adoption of UN Action Plan on Safety of Journalists, mindful that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is a human right guaranteed to all, in accordance with Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, understanding that it constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and development, reaffirming the importance of creating a conducive mechanism for the practice of constitutional right to freedom of expression, recognising the state obligation under Sustainable Development Goals to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, including by ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms, recognising that the work of journalists has continued to threaten their physical and digital safety in Pakistan, expressing concern at the escalation in violence against journalists ahead of general elections 2018, expression deep concern at the growing number of threats against journalistic and political expression in digital spaces and recognising the critical role of a free press in Pakistan at this particular juncture;

 

i. Condemn all incidents of covert or overt threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists.

ii. Condemn the crackdown on digital expression of journalists and political workers through direct and indirect means

iii. Also condemn the actions of arbitrary censorship through regulatory channels or through coercive mechanisms

iv. Strongly condemn the prevailing impunity in cases of violence against journalists

v. Reaffirm our commitment to the cause of media and press freedoms in Pakistan

vi. Reaffirm our commitment to work towards ensuring progressive media regulation by bringing about necessary changes in all related laws including the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendments) Act, 2009

vii. Express our commitment to work towards the establishment of a secure digital environment wherein journalists, political workers, activists and other netizens are free and able to express their political and ideological opinions without the fear of having to face arbitrary crackdowns, censorship or other forms of coercive mechanisms

viii. Express our commitment to continue advocating for the review Pakistan Electronic Crime Act 2016, for identification of sections that are detrimental to press and media freedoms and commit to work towards pushing for appropriate amendments in the law

ix. Commit to using our influence within and beyond our own communities to push for transparency about the status of investigations into attacks and violence against journalists

xCall upon the government for the development of an effective strategy to fight impunity in cases of violence against journalists, including but not limited to:

  1. Enacting and implementing an effective journalist safety law that addresses the key challenge of investigations
  2. Recognising digital threats against journalists as a liable crime against press freedoms in Pakistan 
  3. Making public the investigation reports in high profile cases including the Hamid Mir Commission Report. 

 

 

 

 

Muhammad Shoaib Khan

Muhammad Shoaib Khan

Muhammad Shoaib Khan is a journalist from Pakistan and has worked with NEO TV, Independent News, PBCand The Nation.

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