RSF hails Sindh law protecting journalists, calls for improvements

Published July 13, 2021
The law will help Pakistan to implement the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to which it signed up in 2014. — AFP/File
The law will help Pakistan to implement the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to which it signed up in 2014. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partner, Freedom Network (FN), hail the adoption of a law protecting journalists by the Sindh Assembly, but they propose essential improvements that should be incorporated into the law during its initial implementation phase, says a press release.

The essence of the new law, passed unanimously by the Sindh Assembly on May 28, is summed up in this key article: “No person or institution, whether private or public, shall engage in any act that violates or threatens the right to life and security of any journalist or media practitioner.”

The law will help Pakistan to implement the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, to which it signed up in 2014, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to which it agreed the following year.

“The very broad consensus that led to the Sindh Assembly’s adoption of the law protecting journalists should serve as an example both in the rest of Pakistan and internationally,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “It reflects the degree to which lawmakers have become aware of the absolutely dominant role that press freedom and the safety of journalists play in the functioning of democratic societies.”

FN executive director Iqbal Khattak said: “Freedom Network is thankful to the Sindh government for supporting and passing such an inspirational special law for which the journalist community, editors, RSF and Freedom Network worked hard to help devise a mechanism to end impunity for crimes against media and its practitioners.”

The law says it aims to enable those responsible for crimes of violence against journalists to be brought to justice and to create an environment favourable to professional, independent journalism that serves the general interest.

When examining the original draft, the Sindh Assembly agreed to an amendment obligating the Sindh government to offer free legal aid to journalists facing threats or attacks who cannot afford a lawyer.

Despite this and other positive aspects, RSF and FN have identified several issues that the law has not addressed. If they continue to be neglected, the protective mechanisms it envisages will probably not suffice to combat impunity and provide journalists with full protection.

RSF and FN therefore ask the Sindh authorities to heed the following recommendations during the process of establishing the practical rules for implementing the law, known as “Rules of Business.”

Recommendations

Special public prosecutor: A special public prosecutor is needed to comply with the UN Plan of Action. The Sindh authorities must therefore ensure that the law creates the position of an independent special prosecutor with their own powers. This is the only way to counter the influence that individuals or groups may try to use to undermine police investigations and evidence collection, and thereby prevent crimes against journalists in connection with their work from being punished.

Representative decision-making body: The composition of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals that is created by the law must be revised because, as it stands, only one of its nine members represents journalists and the other eight are government officials and representatives of media owners and editors. Journalists must be better represented.

Gender balance: The law contains absolutely no provision regarding a gender balance, which will tend to perpetuate the discrimination to which women journalists are routinely subjected in Pakistan. FN and RSF insist that at least a third of the commission’s members are women.

Extend protection to families: In view of the different kinds of threats or attacks to which journalists are subjected, and which sometimes also target family members, FN and RSF recommend exten­ding the protection to families of the targeted journalists, when required.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

Opinion

Law & processions
16 Oct 2021

Law & processions

It is up to the police to impose reasonable conditions on a procession.
Is the party over?
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Is the party over?

Many in PTI are concerned how they can hang on till the next elections.
The last fortress
Updated 16 Oct 2021

The last fortress

The state wants to use the social media rules to trample on the right to freedom of speech.
Reopening under Covid
15 Oct 2021

Reopening under Covid

It will be a challenge to deal with all students returning to classrooms and maintaining SOPs.

Editorial

Diminishing freedom
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Diminishing freedom

DESPITE the serious reservations of digital rights activists and tech companies, the federal government has...
16 Oct 2021

Dirty politics

IN her outburst against Prime Minister Imran Khan this week, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz may not have taken names but...
16 Oct 2021

Decreasing emissions

THE announcement by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam that carbon emissions in the country came down by 9pc...
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...