Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), along with Pakistan press clubs, other journalists’ bodies and the Freedom Network called upon Pakistani political parties to commit to defending freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their manifestos for the upcoming general elections.

A statement issued by RSF on Thursday stated that since the situation of journalists in Pakistan had worsened in the runup to the general elections, the media heads of the country along with the international publication, launched a “crucial appeal” to the Pakistani political parties to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom.

“Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity,” the statement said.

According to Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 Report, there were no convictions in 96 per cent of journalist killings in the past 10 years, it added.

“Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information — the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A,” RSF said.

“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. RSF, along with Pakistan’s press clubs, journalists’ unions and press freedom organisations, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them,” the statement said, quoting RSF’s South Asia desk.

The statement added that political parties have been strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan traditionally and journalistic institutions remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

“We ask these federal and regional political parties to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” it said.

The joint statement was signed by the following press clubs, unions of journalists and alliances and organisations:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Paris, France, Karachi Press Club, Karachi, Lahore Press Club, Lahore, Quetta Press Club, Quetta, National Press Club, Islamabad, Peshawar Press Club, Peshawar, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Karachi, Punjab Union of Journalists, Lahore, Balochistan Union of Journalists, Quetta, Khyber Union of Journalists, Peshawar, Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Islamabad, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Islamabad, Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Islamabad, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Karachi, Freedom Network, Islamabad, Hamid Mir, TV journalist, Islamabad.

The joint statement was delivered to the following political parties to “seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections”:

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) , Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), National Party (NP), Hazara Democratic Party (HDP).

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