ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) submitted a 19-point charter of demands to the federal government on Wednesday, calling for urgent measures for the revival of media industry and for safeguarding the rights of journalists and media workers.

The PFUJ has already given a call for a long march from Quetta to Islamabad in April.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, the PFUJ president, said in a statement: “We are faced with a situation where freedom of expression is under threat and journalists’ safety is being challenged by physical and virtual attacks. The industry is also in a financial crisis.”

The charter of demands says that the freedoms of press, speech and expression have been compromised due to “authoritarian tactics, arm-twisting and the use of draconian laws”.

It calls for an immediate meeting of all stakeholders of the media industry to save it from “further damage”.

The PFUJ called upon the federal and provincial governments to direct owners of media houses to halt retrenchments, layoffs, pay cuts, stoppage of salaries and other dues.

“Even regional language newspapers have been suffering because the federal and provincial governments have held back their advertisements,” Mr Zulfiqar said.

The PFUJ called for immediate restoration of the advertisement quota of the regional language press in all the four provinces, as well as in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan.

The charter of demands draws the government’s attention to an unusual delay in implementation of the eighth wage award for journalists and media workers, which was announced in 2019.

“The government should immediately create a mechanism for implementation of the wage award, including making the release of advertisements conditional upon its implementation.”

One of the demands concerns the electronic and digital media. The government is urged to thrash out a service structure for electronic and digital media industry.

The document also takes care of security issues confronting journalists. It calls upon the government to arrest killers of journalists and reopen murder cases of US journalist Denial Pearl and Geo news reporter Wali Baber.

At the same time, it says police and other law enforcement agencies should be asked to provide security cover to journalists and media workers across the country.

Shahzada Zulfiqar called for a review of all the laws, rules and regulations “that are being misused to gag the media and for intimidating journalists”.

“We call for revisiting Article 19 of the Constitution as it provides for unwanted restrictions on the media and also the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act,” he said.

The 19-point charter of demands says that since journalists and media workers are “frontline workers” in the fight against Covid-19, they should be included in the “top priority list” for the purpose of vaccination.

“A compensation of Rs2 million should be paid to those journalists and media workers who fall victim to terrorism, as well as to those who die of coronavirus disease,” Shahzada Zulfiqar said.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2021

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