QUETTA: Pakistan’s journalist fraternity on Sunday issued a declaration expressing serious concern over torture, abduction and arrest of journalists, unannounced censorship through financial curbs on media houses, threats to owners and journalists by anti-media forces to compel them to toe the official line or face government’s wrath.
The declaration, which held Tehreek-i-Insaf government under Prime Minister Imran Khan directly responsible for the current crises, was issued by the federal executive council (FEC) of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) after three-day deliberations at a meeting held in Balochistan’s capital.
All presidents and secretaries of journalist unions from across the country as well as elected FEC members attended the meeting.
Demanding press freedom, the meeting observed “a systematic war has been launched by the government and anti-media forces to curb the freedom of expression”, which is embedded in the 1973 Constitution.
Issues declaration seeking media freedom, payment of Rs6bn dues, end to ‘harassment’
The very first action of Imran-led government was to put a financial squeeze on the media industry by bringing into question the arrears that it owed to the media and withholding their payment, the declaration pointed out. The move subsequently affected working journalists.
The declaration said: “Along with the financial squeeze, the government has started micro-managing the media with media advice, some openly and many through clandestine telephone calls, increasing the list of red-lines that the media is arm twisted not to cross, forcing the media to resort to self-censorship of a kind never before forced on it in the past, even during military rule.”
The FEC demanded that the government immediately abandon all anti-media policies and sit with representatives of the media industry — PFUJ, CPNE, APNS, PBA and civil society, including HRCP and PBC — to discuss the matter holistically and reach an accord to guarantee media freedom as per the ruling party’s own manifesto.
The FEC also expressed its serious concern over blind abductions of journalists from the federal capital and rest of the country and arrest of the chief editor of the country’s largest media group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, in a case pertaining to land purchase more than 30 years ago.
Besides, “the continuous attempts by the government to amend the relevant rules and regulations and to write fresh black laws to bring the social media under its full control” were condemned by the journalists fraternity in the strongest terms.
The FEC denounced the practice of launching “shady radio stations and TV channels”. The declaration also strongly condemned the rising trend of trolling and harassment of female journalists and TV anchorpersons by unknown troll groups pretending to be above the state agents. It demanded safety of journalists, media workers and regional media outlets in all the provinces.
Asking the government to rationalize advertisement rates, the FEC demanded that the government clear Rs6 billion arrears pending with the Ministry of Information.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, while addressing the elected executive council of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and senior journalists, criticised the previous governments for what he said failing to benefit from the CPEC project.
Later, dinner in honour of journalists was arranged on behalf of the CM.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020