ISLAMABAD: None of the politicians who had confirmed they would attend the Press Freedom Day event at the National Press Club on Thursday showed up.

Khurshid Shah, Shireen Mazari, Aftab Sherpao, State Minister Jafar Iqbal, Fouzia Hameed and Sahabzada Tariq Ullah had all confirmed they will attend the event but did not show.

During a presentation about manifestos of political parties, participants of the event were told that in their 2013 manifestos, parties had vowed to play a role for the freedom of information and human rights, but they have hardly acted on any of their claims.

PML-N had committed that it will ensure the right to information, that protection will be provided to journalists and the civil society will empowered, which was not implemented. Instead, a draconian law was introduced under which it has become possible to arrest someone for sending a friend request on social media, the seminar was told.

The PPP manifesto claimed the right to information will be ensured that that a wage board award will be announced but it did nothing towards these goals in its tenure during 2008-13.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf introduced the Right to Information bill but did not address social media issues even though the party is very active on social media. Other parties including ANP, MQM and JUI-F have also made claims regarding the freedom of expression in their manifestos.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) President Afzal Butt said quality journalism cannot be ensured without life and job security.

“Over 80pc of the journalists in Pakistan face either threats to their life or their jobs. The media is also stopped from covering public meetings in which thousands of people participate,” he said.

Senior journalist Nasir Zaidi said freedom of expression has been curbed by state and non-state actors. He said that due to the controlled media policy, people thought Pakistan was winning the war till Dec 15, 1971 and that Dhaka had fallen the next day.

“The eighth wage board award has been notified, but unless it is implemented, it cannot be said that journalists have a wage board,” he said.

Anchorperson Arshad Sharif suggested that PFUJ should launch a website and that news organisations should publish joint editorials on the freedom of expression.

Journalists manhandled by police

Meanwhile, a rally organised by journalists in connection with Press Freedom Day was stopped by the police near D-Chowk and its participants were manhandled.

Talking to Dawn, journalist Shaharyar Khan said that the deputy commissioner had been informed about the rally, but the police still tried to stop it at China Chowk.

“However, we kept moving as we had to get to Parliament House, but the police manhandled us at D-Chowk. We later went to the Supreme Court and informed the chief justice of the matter, who directed the district administration to submit a reply Friday morning,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2018

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