LAHORE, Oct 18: The Media Commission--Pakistan (MCP) held a seminar on “Unaccountable Harassment by Intelligence Agencies” and condemned intelligence agencies for threatening and roughing up journalists on one pretext or another.

The speakers --- Najam Sethi, Arif Nizami, Imtiaz Alam, Khalid Chaudhry, I A Rehman, Saad Rafique (PML-N) and Samiullah Khan (PPP) -- focused on the issue of Sirmed Manzoor, a journalist and chief coordinator of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), whose house was broken into two weeks ago by intelligence agents who stole his passport, computer data and other such material.

The speakers unanimously agreed that such actions must end and warned the agencies that they would raise this issue at powerful forums at home and abroad if the intelligence agencies did not stop their 'nefarious' anti-media actions.

Mr Rehman said: “It is a matter of satisfaction that we still have some noble people who refuse to bow before those unwilling to see their existence. But the time has come to adopt an effective strategy to tackle the issue.”

He urged civil society members and journalists community to initiate legal proceedings in such cases by involving various publishing institutions.

Punjab's PPP acting president Samiullah Khan said a majority of media people were supporting the interests of agencies.

Imtiaz Alam said the journalists community was not against the agencies. “If agency officials want to inquire journalists regarding any complaint, they should summon them instead of harassing them secretly,” he said.

Arif Nizami condemned the role of CPNE and APNS for not taking up such matters with the quarters concerned. “I request the judiciary to take sou moto notices of such incidents and give justice to affected journalists,” he said.

Every speaker also bemoaned the role of the mainstream media which generally does not rise to the defence of its colleagues in such situations. Samiullah Khan and Saad Rafique promised to take up this issue in their respective parties.

All the speakers also spoke at length on civil-military relations. There was a consensus of views on the supremacy of civilians over the military, accountability of all including the military and its budget, peace within and outside the region, end to war mongering and redefinition of national security to stress social security.

Opinion

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If govts could focus a bit more on infrastructure and transportation, the heart of Pakistan would be able to pump a lot more life and activity.

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