KARACHI: Leaders of various political parties, rights groups and journalists fraternity during a seminar on Saturday expressed serious concerns over harassment of journalists, unannounced censorship through financial curbs on media houses, threats to owners and journalists by anti-media forces to compel them to toe the official line or face government’s wrath. They demanded of the Sindh government and political parties to legislate the journalists’ safety bill.
The Karachi Union of Journalists organized the seminar at a local hotel where a book “Pakistan Union of Journalists’ covering its 70 years of struggle for freedom of expression and economic rights of media workers was also launched. Speakers, among others, included: Sindh Information Minister and a PPP leader Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Federal Minister and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s leader Syed Aminul Haque, former governor and a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s leader Mohammad Zubair, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s co-chair Asad Iqbal Butt, senior politician Dr Farooq Sattar, president of Awami National Party Sindh, Shahi Syed, senior lawyer Shahadat Awan, senior journalists Hamid Mir, Mazhar Abbas, PFUJ’s president Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi.
Speakers stressed that there was a dire need for a substantive legislation to protect the journalist community and asked the Sindh government and political parties having representation in Sindh Assembly to pass the journalists safety bill from the legislature.
Speaking at the event, Sindh Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Sindh Assembly will pass the journalists’ protection bill soon and also announced to include journalists in the Labour Welfare Programme on the recommendations of the PFUJ and KUJ. The Federal Minister Aminul Haque said that the MQM-P had always supported the journalist’s demands both inside and outside the parliament.
Hamid Mir said that journalists alone cannot fight for press freedom and therefore only a collective struggle of groups representing labourers, students, lawyers, professionals, doctors and teachers would achieve the cause. Mazhar Abbas highlighted the history of the struggle of press freedom in Pakistan, mentioning how journalists have always struggled for supremacy of the constitution in the country.
Giving an ultimatum of three months to the government, the PFUJ’s Shahzada Zulfiqar said that if the issues related to media workers and press freedom were not resolved, a campaign will be launched from Quetta which would conclude in Islamabad.
Former governor Sindh Mohammad Zubair said that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure free and fair media. HRCP’s Asad Iqbal Butt said that since freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, the government must ensure the protection of the journalists.
Lawyer Shahadat Awan said that journalists and lawyers have always worked together for supremacy of the constitution and assured that the legal fraternity will always stand with the journalists for their rights.
Newspaper: The News