ISLAMABAD: Amidst perception of a fast shrinking space for dissent and right to express, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — a mother institution regulating the affairs of the legal fraternity — constituted on Tuesday a much-needed seven-member Journalistic Defence Committee to protect the rights of journalists.
According to the PBC, the committee was formed in view of alleged policies of the government undermining the freedom of expression through a draconian cybercrime law, particularly making it increasingly difficult for journalists to discharge and perform their duties independently in accordance with the demand of their professional obligations and journalistic practices.
The committee formed by PBC vice chairman Abid Saqi will provide legal assistance and services to journalists and their elected bodies in the courts of law at Islamabad/Rawalpindi. for protecting their rights to express.
Headed by Barrister Jahangir Jadoon, the committee consists of advocates Mohammad Usman Warraich, retired Col Inam-ur-Raheem, Sajid Tanoli, Babar Hayat Samoor, Umer Gillani and Haider Imtiaz.
The PBC announced that any aggrieved journalist in need of legal aid or services could approach the committee.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist had at a recent meeting in Quetta accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government of denying press freedom and freedom of speech and expression in the country.
Kidnapping of journalists, harassment of women journalists and the prolonged incarceration of Jang Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakeelur Rehman caught in the accountability cycle have alarmed not only the media but also the lawyers’ community.
Speaking his heart out at an oath-taking ceremony of the Press Association of the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa had also mentioned the World Press Freedom Index published by the Reporters Without Frontiers that evaluates 180 countries and ranks them according to the prevalence of the press freedom.
According to Justice Isa, it ranked Pakistan at a very low position of 139 in terms of the freedom index in 2017-18, which then slipped to 142nd position in 2019 and then took the plunge to a shameful 145th.
The Supreme Court judge also stated that when citizens fight for the press freedom, they fight for their own rights. If people surrender their right to free speech and expression or permit the censorship of the press, it will not be long before other guaranteed freedoms are taken away, he said.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020