ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly standing committee on information and broadcasting on Tuesday directed the ministry to prepare proposals for the allocation of funds to help the families of journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. The meeting of the committee was presided over by Marvi Memon.
Secretary Information Mohammad Azam informed the meeting that the ministry was planning to work on a proposal to allocate Rs200 million for the families of the journalists who received injuries or were killed in the line of duty.
“The government has not paid a single penny to the families of the journalists who were killed or injured while performing their duties,” the secretary said in reply to a question by Ms Memon. The members expressed concerns over the role of the ministry which they said had failed to compensate the families of the victims.
Mr Azam said the government had already abolished the secret fund which was also used to support the journalists’ community to overcome their health-related issues in the past.
Secretary information says no compensation has been paid so far to families of mediapersons
“We have a proposal for the allocation of funds in this regard and have already discussed it with the government’s financial adviser to process in this regard,” he added.
Ms Memon directed the officials to finalise the proposals as soon as possible, adding the committee would fully support the proposals.
On Monday, the secretary had also informed the Senate standing committee on information and broadcasting that the ministry had already forward a summary to the ministry of finance to allocate Rs200 million for this purpose.
The secretary told the NA committee that the ministry was also planning to arrange workshops for journalists working in conflict zones.
“We have allocated Rs100 million for the training of journalists covering development activities. The mediapersons will be trained on the standards of economic reporting,” he added. Ms Memon later said a separate meeting would be convened to discuss issues related to the rating system of private TV channels.
The committee directed the ministry to improve the quality of press releases being issued by the Press Information Department (PID) and its regional offices.
It also recommended deputing more cameramen/reporters on the foreign visits of the prime minister.
Iqbal Khattak, a Peshawar-based senior journalist and media safety expert, told Dawn that nine mediapersons and four assistants attached with different media organisations lost their lives so far in the current year.
“It is unfortunate that the government has failed to allocate funds at the federal level for the families of the journalists who were killed in the line of duty.”
He said the government provided financial support to the families of the police and military personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty.
“The government is not serious in punishing the killers of the journalists. The culprits target journalists due to the slim chances of being convicted and punished,” he said.
Mr Khattak demanded the government establish a special public prosecutor to investigate and proceed against the attackers on journalists across the country.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2014