LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has conferred the 2021 Nisar Osmani Award for Courage in Journalism on the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) for its struggle for the rights of journalists and freedom of the press.

The award was presented to PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi by veteran journalist and rights activist Hussain Naqi at the HRCP’s Annual General Meeting at its Dorab Patel Auditorium on Saturday. HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani, secretary general Harris Khalique and its council members were also present.

Announcing the award, Mr Khalique said defending the right to freedom of speech was central to the HRCP’s struggles for which it had the experience of its founding member Nisar Osmani for guidance. Being the key representative body for journalists, he further said, the PFUJ had become a symbol for the struggle for freedom of speech.

The organisation assumed a critical role against censorship and pressures and threats to the media and journalists to censor especially in 2020-21, he said.

“In fact, by criticising the controversial and authoritarian proposal of the PMDA, it has reinvigorated its basic objective of protecting the public interest. The PFUJ has successfully fought the government’s moves to pressurise both conventional and digital media though legislation, and played a leading role against the state policies that most media owners surrendered to leading to workers losing jobs and facing drastic pay cuts,” the HRCP official said in a tribute to the PFUJ’s decades-long efforts.

Mr Zulfiqar said they dedicated the award to all those murdered in the last decade or so while fighting for press freedom, lost jobs, taken off air and still being threatened.

Mr Zaidi dedicated the award to the unsung heroes who fought for democracy, supremacy of constitution and parliament, respect for basic rights, challenged dictators and rendered all kinds of sacrifices.

“The people in Balochistan’s tribal areas seeking political dialogue and basic rights are facing difficulties and facing the state’s onslaught. The PFUJ will not halt its struggle till basic human rights are ensured. People like I.A. Rehman, Nisar Osmani, Asma Jilani and Justice Patel are heroes and assets of the country, who dedicated their lives to the cause.”

The previous recipients of this award include the late Zameer Niazi, the late Razia Bhatti and Ahmed Rashid.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2021

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