ISLAMABAD: A cell has been set up to provide free legal assistance to journalists in coordination with the Journalists Defence Committee of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBCJDC).

The initiative comes at a time when physical and online safety of journalists has become a serious concern in the country since 2001. More than 130 members of the fraternity have lost their lives over the last two decades. The cell, which includes lawyers well versed in constitutional, civil and criminal laws, will work under the umbrella of the Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA).

It’s goal is to provide free legal assistance to journalists facing threats, attacks, restrictions and “judicial peril” in the line of duty.

Muhammad Aftab Alam, executive director of IRADA, said journalists had been working under tremendous pressure for the last two decades.

“They have faced enormous challenges ranging from assaults, intimidation, harassment and kidnappings to targeted killings and terrorism,” he observed.

Mr Alam pointed out that physical and online safety of journalists had been a source of worry since 2001 as more than 130 of them had lost their lives during the period.

A three-member committee, consisting of nominees from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Pakistan Bar Council and IRADA, will oversee the cell’s functioning. The committee will determine whether the cell should accept a request for assistance and what should be the extent of its support in each case.

A dedicated email account (legal@irada.org.pk) has been created to receive applications and requests from journalists in distress.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2021

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