Media defenders seek parties' commitment to press freedom ahead of polls

Media organisations call for freedom of expression and protection of journalists

By
Web Desk
A representational image. — AFP/File
A representational image. — AFP/File 

  • Media organisations call for freedom of expression, protection of journalists. 
  • Impunity for crimes against journalists, media is very high in Pakistan, they say. 
  • PPP, PML-N, PTI, JI among other parties that were delivered joint letter. 


ISLAMABAD: As the general elections approach, media organisations in Pakistan Tuesday launched an appeal to the key mainstream and regional political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom. 

Pakistan's leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, Paris-based global media watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network called on heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending the freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.

"Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity," said the joint letter on Thursday.

Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 report stated that there were “no convictions in 96% of journalist killings in the past 10 years,” the letter added. 

“Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus, denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.”

Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, Quetta Press Club, National Press Club, Islamabad, Peshawar Press Club, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists, Balochistan Union of Journalists, Khyber Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Freedom Network, Reporters Without Borders and TV journalist Hamid Mir co-authored this joint letter.

“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. Pakistan’s press clubs along with journalists' unions, press freedom organisations and editors bodies for electronic media, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them," it mentioned. 

The statement recalled that traditionally, political parties were strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. “Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right,” the statement said.

“We ask these federal and regional political parties to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” they emphasised. 

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttehida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Baluchistan Awami Party, Baluchistan National Party (Mengal group), Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), Hazara Democratic Party and National Party were delivered this joint letter to seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections.