THE Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this week, can look back on its history with both satisfaction and mortification. It has achieved a lot but has also lost much of its vigour due to factionalism within its ranks. The courageous decision to create an organisation dedicated to the ideals of a media free from bondage to the government — and Pakistan’s other powerful players — was itself an achievement. It was a difficult task because of Pakistan’s membership of Western military alliances; any mention of libertarian ideas was considered a communist plot. Yet the fact that the PFUJ not only survived but worked fearlessly under a unified, elected leadership is indeed a tribute to its founders’ vision and courage. Their aim was simple and non-controversial — to have a trade union dedicated to ensuring the implementation of Pakistani journalists’ professional rights and their economic well-being. One of its biggest achievements was getting an unwilling government to agree to the establishment of a body to categorise newspapers according to their financial strength and draw up pay scales for journalists. Set up in the early 1960s, the wage board has been giving its award every five years despite opposition from the owners’ lobby.

An event that is an intrinsic part of the PFUJ’s history was the countrywide strike in 1970, which was launched under the leadership of the late Minhaj Barna. While the strike was essentially for the grant of interim pay relief for all journalists, and was held after a ‘yes’ vote by PFUJ members, the general election due later that year cast its ominous shadow on the protest. Right-wing political parties portrayed it as a leftist plot and tried to sabotage the strike by instigating the newspaper industry’s non-journalist staff. One of the PFUJ’s controversial decisions in the aftermath of the strike was to form a vertical trade union — the All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation — that included both journalists and non-journalists. This decision led to a gradual dilution of the PFUJ’s strength, with all bargaining power resting with APNEC. Now the PFUJ, for a variety of reasons, including personality-driven ambitions, stands divided in factions, several attempts at unity having failed. At a time when efforts are on to gag free expression, a united PFUJ is needed more than ever before. It is time common sense prevailed and all PFUJ factions realised it is only through journalists’ unity that press freedom can be collectively defended.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020

Opinion

Pakhtuns, state and nationalism
Updated 15 Oct 2021

Pakhtuns, state and nationalism

They have lost the most in the ‘war on terror’. Why then is the PM painting Pakhtuns as a nation of holy warriors?
Unity of faith
15 Oct 2021

Unity of faith

There is unity in the apparent diversity of faith traditions.
The people’s page
Updated 15 Oct 2021

The people’s page

Many are disillusioned with the ‘Naya Pakistan’ narrative.
The next 22 months
Updated 14 Oct 2021

The next 22 months

There are at least 11 key challenges which the government will face in the run-up to the next polls.

Editorial

No need for NAB
Updated 15 Oct 2021

No need for NAB

THE National Accountability Bureau has sent instructions to its regional bureaus to stop processing cases that fall...
Forced conversions
Updated 15 Oct 2021

Forced conversions

THE majoritarian view has once again prevailed in the matter of bringing about legislation against forced conversion...
15 Oct 2021

Transgender rights

MEMBERS of the transgender community in the country are often at the receiving end of both their families’ and...
One big mess
14 Oct 2021

One big mess

At its core, the tension is the result of blurring of institutional boundaries witnessed since the PTI government came to power.
Tareen’s admission
Updated 14 Oct 2021

Tareen’s admission

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan’s estranged friend Jahangir Khan Tareen has finally confirmed what has long been alleged...
14 Oct 2021

Dengue outbreak

DENGUE cases continue to rise at an alarming rate in several cities of KP and Punjab. According to data provided by...