PPF’S Draft Protection of Journalist and Media Professionals Bill, 2020.

AS INTRODUCED IN THE SINDH ASSEMBLY

A

Bill

To promote, protect and effectively ensure the independence, impartiality, safety and freedom of expression of journalists and media professionals.

WHEREAS it is the responsibility of the State to safeguard the right to freedom of expression, as contained in Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, as well as in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media;

AND WHEREAS it is the requirement of any democratic society to instill a strong culture of safety and independence of journalists, taking into consideration specific attacks on journalists and media professionals;

AND WHEREAS it is expedient to establish a legal and institutional framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of journalists and media professionals;

It is hereby enacted as follows: –

PART I

PRELIMINARY

  1. Short title, extent and commencement. – (1) This Act may be called the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021.

(2) It shall extend to the whole of the province of Sindh.

(3) It shall come into force at once.

  • Definitions. – In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, –
  • “Act” shall mean the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021.
  • “Commission” means the Sindh Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals, constituted under Section 12 of this Act;
  • “Constitution” means the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
  • “Government” means the Sindh Government;
  • “Harassment” means any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made a condition for employment” Harassment of journalists and media professionals extends to the issuance of threats, actions or communication — verbal or written, explicit or implied — as a way of censoring, threatening or coercing a media professional.
  •  “Journalist” means any person who is professionally or regularly engaged by a newspaper, magazine, news website or other news broadcast medium (whether online or offline), or any person working on a freelance basis for any newspaper, magazine, news website or other news broadcast medium;
  • “Media professional” includes any other person regularly or professionally engaged in the collection, processing and dissemination of information to the public via any means of mass communication, including cameraperson and photographers, technical supporting staff, drivers and interpreters, editors, translators, publishers, broadcasters, printers and distributors;
  • “Media owner” means the owner of a media house or agency which collects and disseminates to consumers news, features, comments, photographs and graphics through any means of communications;
  • “Sources” mean any book, publication, person or organization that discloses information forming the substance/subject of work undertaken by any journalist, reporter or media professional;
  • “Schedule” means a Schedule to this Act.

PART II

RIGHTS OF JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS

  1. Right to life and protection against ill-treatment. – (1) The Sindh Government shall take effective steps to ensure that every journalist and media professional’s right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the Constitution, is safeguarded, and that no such individual is subjected to ill-treatment.

(2) No person or institution, whether private or public, shall engage in any act that violates the right to life and security of any journalist or media professional.

(3) In order to maintain the independence, impartiality and freedom of journalists and media professionals, the Sindh Government shall take steps to ensure that existing or future counter-terrorism or security laws are not utilized arbitrarily to hinder the work and safety of journalists and media professionals, including through arbitrary arrest or detention, or the threat thereof.

(4) The Sindh Government shall ensure that effective measures are taken to protect journalists and media professionals against forced or involuntary disappearances, kidnapping, abduction or other methods of coercion.

(5) The Sindh Government shall ensure that journalists and media professionals are allowed to carry out their journalistic work in conflict-affected areas within the province, without threats, intimidation, harassment or fear of persecution or targeting.

(6)  If the Commission finds that any institution or organization is, directly or indirectly, involved in violating, or attempting to violate, the rights to life and protection against ill-treatment safeguarded in subsection (1) above, it shall report the same to the Sindh Government and recommend appropriate course of action against the perpetrator(s) of these violations.

  • Right to privacy and non-disclosure of sources. – (1) Each journalist and media professional shall have the right to privacy, which includes protection of the law against interference with his/her personal and professional correspondence. The information gathered by journalists and media professionals will also be protected, including online on digital platforms, or in the field in physical spaces.

(2) The Sindh Government shall ensure that its laws, policies and practices respect the right to privacy of journalists and media professionals and that these laws, policies and practices do not force, induce, compel, coerce or threaten the disclosure of sources.

(3) The Sindh Government shall protect all journalists and media professionals from unlawful or arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.

  • Independence in the performance of duties. – (1) No journalist or media professional shall be subjected to any unlawful or arbitrary restrictions on their ability to perform their work independently, and without undue interference.
  • Protection from abusive, violent and intolerant behaviour. – (1) The Sindh Government shall take all steps to protect journalists and media professionals from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of any person, institution (private or public) or authority.

(2) Whenever any act of abuse, violence or intolerant behaviour is committed against any journalist, reporter or media professional, whether perpetrated by a private or public person, institution or authority, information concerning such act shall be, within a period of fourteen (14) days, the aggrieved journalist or media professional, employer, or journalists union shall file a complaint against the same before the Commission created under this Act.

(3) Upon receipt of information the Commission shall, within a period of fourteen (14) days, take all necessary actions to investigate and prosecute such acts of abuse, violence or intolerant behaviour, and to take appropriate measures under law to provide protection to the concerned journalist, reporter or media professional in the manner prescribed under this Act.

(4) The Commission shall have the power to summon relevant records and the concerned authorities/individuals/officials including government departments and police officials.

  • Protection against harassment. – (1) The Sindh Government shall ensure that every journalist, reporter and media professionals is protected against harassment, as defined in this Act.

(2) The Act will cover harassment against journalists and media professionals in both physical and digital spaces.

(3) Whenever any act of harassment is committed against any journalist or media professional, whether perpetrated by a private or public person, institution or authority, information concerning such act shall be, within a period of fourteen (14) days, the aggrieved journalist, his or her employer or journalists’ union may file a complaint against such act of harassment before the Commission under the Act.

(4) Upon receipt of information identified in this Act, the Commission shall, within a period of fourteen days, take all necessary actions to investigate and prosecute such acts of harassment, and to take appropriate measures under the law to provide protection to the concerned journalist or media professional.

(5) The Commission shall have the power to summon records and the concerned authorities/individuals/officials including government and police officials in connection with any incident where an act of harassment is committed against any journalist or media professional.

PART III

Training and insurance

5. (1) The Government of Sindh will coordinate with industry stakeholders such as PFUJ, APNS, CPNE and PBA to produce a comprehensive, written safety policy and protocols for journalists and media professionals and to institute effective safety programs catering to each category of journalists such as reporters, photojournalists, video camera persons, district correspondents, etc.

     (2)  The Government of Sindh will coordinate with PFUJ, APNS, CPNE and PBA to initiate insurance policies of journalists who are injured or killed because of their work.

PART III

INVESTIGATION AND REDRESS

6. Obligation to investigate, prosecute and penalize threats, coercion, acts of violence and abuse of journalists, and media professionals.

  • Where any person acts in a threatening, coercive, abusive or violent manner, or conspires to act in a threatening, coercive, abusive or violent manner, or aids and abets a threatening, coercive, abusive or violent act with the intent to undermine the integrity and independence of journalists and media professionals, such acts may be reported to the Commission.
  • The Commission shall take appropriate steps to ensure accountability for such acts by conducting impartial, prompt, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all such reports.
  • The Commission will create a website where it will be required to provide regular updates and the status of each of the cases being followed up by the Commission.
  • Following the required investigations under relevant sections of the Act, the Commission shall ensure that all perpetrators are prosecuted and simultaneously ensure that the aggrieved journalists have access to adequate and effective remedies.

7. Combating impunity.

  • No threatening, coercive, abusive or violent act, committed against journalists or media professionals, shall be exempt from immediate and effective investigation and prosecution.
  • The Government shall develop and implement strategies for combating impunity for those engaging in conduct mentioned in relevant section of this Act, particularly with regard to the following:
  • Monitoring and conducting investigations into cases reported by journalists, media professionals, their families or civil society organizations working on journalists’ protection;
  • Coordinating policy and action between relevant government authorities;
  • Ensuring the participation of journalists, and media professionals, and/or their families, in processes aimed at guaranteeing their protection and safety.

(3) The Government of Sindh will coordinate with stakeholders including civil society organisations, media industry associations as well as government departments to implement best practices provided for in the United Nations Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.   The commission shall monitor the progress by government in implementing the United Nations Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity

PART V

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INDEPENDENT COMMISSION FOR THE PROTECTION OF JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS

8. Establishment of a Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals.

  • The Sindh Government shall constitute an independent commission to be known as the Commission for the Protection of Journalist and Media Professionals (CPJMP) to exercise the powers and perform the functions under this Act.
  • The Commission shall consist of:
  • A Chairperson, who has been a Judge of the High Court of the Supreme Court, or who is qualified to be a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court, and has a demonstrable knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to law, justice and human rights;
  • Members of the commission shall comprise high level representatives from the following departments of the Sindh Governments (a) Information and Archives Department, (b) Home Department, (c) Human Rights Department and (d) Sindh Information Commission.  The Information and Archives Department shall serve
  1. The commission shall also include representatives of PFUJ, APNS, CPNE, PBA, Bar Council, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (PBA) as members of the commission.

(3) The Commission may co-opt any person having demonstrable knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to journalism as an observer.

13.Appointment of Chairperson

  • The Government of Sindh shall submit to the Commission, the name of one nominee as Chairperson of the Commission.  The Commission shall within 14 days, vote to approve the nominated person or return the nomination with reasons for inability to approve the nomination.   In case the person nominated is not approved by the commission, the Sindh Government shall submit an alternate name within fourteen day of receipt of decision of the commission.

14.Term of office of the Chairperson and members.

  • A person appointed as Chairperson or a member shall hold office for a term of four years from the date on which he/she enters upon his/her office.

Provided that the term of the office may be extended once.

  • The Chairperson or a member may resign from his/her office in writing under his/her hand addressed to the President and on acceptance of the resignation; such vacancy shall be filled within 30 days.

15.Removal of the Chairperson and members. – The Chairman and members may be removed from office on the grounds and in the manner provided for in Article 209 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

16. Terms and conditions of service of members including Chairperson. – The salaries and allowances payable to, and terms and conditions of service of the members, shall be such as may be prescribed by the Sindh Government in consultation with the Commission.

Provided that neither the salary and allowances nor the terms and conditions of service of a member shall be varied to his/her disadvantage after the appointment.

PART VI

MANAGEMENT AND PROCEDURES OF THE COMMISSION

  1. Functions of the Independent Commission. – (1) The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely: –
  2. On a petition presented to it by an aggrieved journalist, reporter or other media professional or any person on his/her behalf, inquire into complaints of –
  • Threats or acts of torture, killing, violent attacks, forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention and harassment; or
  • Negligence in the prevention of such violations, as listed in Part II of this Act, by a public servant.

(b) Produce an annual report on the state of media freedom and safety.

  1. Procedure of the Independent Commission. – (1) The Commission shall regulate its own procedure.

The Commission will be permitted to formulate its own rules and regulations.

(2) All decisions, directions and orders of the Commission shall be duly authenticated by the Chairperson of the Commission or by any other member of the Commission duly authorized by the Chairperson in this behalf.

(3) The quorum for a meeting of the Commission shall not be less than one-third of the total membership of the Commission.

(4) The Commission shall take decisions in accordance with the views of the majority of its members present and, in case of a deadlock, the member presiding the meeting shall have a casting vote.

  1. Inquiry into complaints. –The Commission, while inquiring into complaints by a journalist, media professional or other duly authorized individual on behalf of such journalist or media professional, may call for information from the Federal Government, a Provincial Government, the intelligence agencies or any other authority or organization, subordinate thereto, within such time as may be specified by it.

Provided that if the information or report is not received within the time stipulated by the Commission, it may proceed to inquire into the complaint on its own.

  • Powers relating to inquiries. – (1) The Commission shall, while inquiring into complaints under this Act, have all the following powers namely: –
  • summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them under oath;
  • discovery and production of documents;
  • receiving evidence on affidavits;
  • issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; and
  • any other matter which may be prescribed.

(2) The Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court to the extent that is described in sections 175, 178, 179, 180 and 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860). If any of the offences listed above are committed in the view or presence of the Commission, the Commission shall, after recording the facts constituting the offence and the statement of the accused as provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898), forward the case to a Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same and the Magistrate to whom any such case is forwarded shall proceed to hear the complaint against the accused as if the case has been forwarded to him under section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898).

(3) Every proceeding before the Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193, 196 and 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860).

PART V

MISCELLANEOUS

21. Application of the Act. – The provisions of this Act shall be complied with and implemented equally in times of armed conflict, internal conflict and during peacetime.

22. Removal of difficulties. – If any difficulty arises in giving effect to any of the provisions of this Act, the Sindh Government may make such order, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as may appear to be necessary, for the purpose of removing the difficulty.