Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Web Desk

Govt has 'hidden agenda to destroy' press freedom, says PFUJ

8,000 media workers have lost their jobs due to the government's "anti-media policies"

Web Desk
Representational image. — File photo

  • Arrears worth Rs6 billion are pending with the government, says PFUJ's FEC meeting
  • 8,000 media workers have lost their jobs due to the government's "anti-media policies"
  • FEC meeting concludes that four major obstacles are causing problems for media workers

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) said Tuesday that it is "evident" that the government has a "hidden agenda" to crush freedom of the press in the country.

According to a statement issued by PFUJ, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting identified four factors that were causing problems for the country's media workers:

  1. Expanding retrenchments, non-payment, delayed payment or cut in salaries of workers,
  2. Diminishing press freedoms
  3. Intensifying censorship and press advice
  4. Growing unholy collaboration between media owners and government actors in depriving media workers of their rights

"There is a hidden agenda of [the] government to optimally destroy press freedom and crush media workers’ rights in Pakistan in complicity with the media owners through economic strangulation and financial arm-twisting of journalists and crushing of enabling environment for media to flourish," the statement said.

Highlighting the plight of journalists, the FEC noted that as many as 8,000 media workers had lost their jobs due to the government's "anti-media policies".

Read more: PFUJ, FN call for legislation to end impunity for crimes against journalists

It said that the policies were being implemented through the owners of media houses — who are now touting and implementing this policy for their own financial and monetary gains.

The meeting said that the media outlet owners were ignoring the basic mission of journalism and freedom of speech guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution.

The FEC expressed anger and anguish over the "deliberate inability" of the PTI leadership to prevent the federal and provincial governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan from devising and implementing anti-media policies.

The council "heavily criticised" the government for allowing and even forcing media regulators including Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Pakistan Press Council (PCP), and Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) "to exceed their mandates and use coercive means to hound journalists and pressurise media houses to crush freedom of expression and professional journalism".

Shedding more light on the government's policies, it said that that the steps taken to slash advertisement and uproot "traditional and successful media economic landscape" had led to several journalists losing their jobs.

Read more: Journalists call for protest on Oct 22 against 'worsening situation' of media industry

The FEC condemned the government's use of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) to target both journalists and citizens in their pursuit of reliable information and professional journalism as a means of expanding the net of censorship.

The meeting warned of serious repercussions against the government's anti-media policies and demanded an immediate and complete reversal of such policies for safeguarding press freedom, freedom of expression, and right to information so that Pakistan returns to the fold of thriving democracies.

The meeting took up the issue of increasing cases of trolling of journalists, TV anchors, and particularly women journalists with serious concerns, by troll brigades designed to reduce the space for press freedom.

The FEC called upon the parliament and the judiciary to step in and perform their responsibilities of safeguarding freedom of press. "Without free media, neither the parliament nor judiciary will be able to function for long," it reminded the two corner stones of democracy.

Read more: Women journalists demand code of conduct for political parties' social media teams

The FEC meeting contended that arrears worth Rs6 billion were pending with the government that was an obstacle in the revival of the industry.

Taking strong exception to the worsening crisis of the media industry, FEC announced a long march in the first week of April from Quetta to Islamabad to force the government and the media owners to fulfil their legal obligations towards the media workers.

The FEC reminded the government that PFUJ, APNS, and PBA have all agreed that these dues will be utilised for the clearance of the salaries of journalists and media workers.