ISLAMABAD: On the eve of the World Press Freedom Day, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has expressed its resolve for ensuring the freedom of press and expression in the country which remained on sharp decline during the previous government.

The PFUJ urged the incumbent government to focus on protection of freedom of speech and expression as no government can succeed in its goals without the constitutional rights of the freedom of press and expression.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi underlined the importance of the freedom of press, free speech and expression. “Freedom of press is the hallmark of any developed and healthy society and it cannot be compromised.”

The PFUJ leaders said that the Imran Khan-led government introduced draconian laws in the shape of Pakistan Media Develop­ment Authority (PMDA) and amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) which could have imposed “Martial law on media”.

Such laws were designed to muzzle the freedom of press and expression and gag the media, they observed, but it was a sustained campaign of PFUJ and civil society that forced the government to withdraw the amendment, they added.

Expressing concern over the state of media freedom in Pakistan, the PFUJ said: “In at least nine cases, journalists were intimidated or silenced altogether, whether in the form of assault, enforced disappearances, murder or overt censorship. Pakistan remained on sharp decline on the world press freedom index as the PTI-led government used authoritarian tactics against media, journalists and media workers.”

They termed the tenure of PTI government terrible for media.

The PFUJ said that the previous government registered concocted and fabricated cases against journalists, besides resorting to abduction and attempts to kill media professionals. It also imposed censorship and issue media advice. Those who did not succumb to the government’s pressure were punished financially that harmed media houses and media persons equally pushing the industry towards a financial bankruptcy.

In addition to that media persons were harassed by PTI activists and even women journalists and anchors were harassed and trolled by cabinet members, which cannot be seen in any civilised society, the statement said.

The government should immediately create an environment for freedom of press initiating a dialogue with stakeholders to devise a strategy that could protect the freedom of press in the country, the statement concluded.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2022

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