KARACHI: Leaders of various political parties, rights groups and journalist fraternities at a seminar on Saturday expressed serious concern over harassment of journalists, unannounced censorship through financial restrictions in media houses, threats against owners and journalists by anti-media forces to forcing them to give up. official line or face government wrath. They demanded the Sindh government and political parties to enact a journalist safety law.
The Karachi Journalists’ Union organized a seminar at a local hotel where a book “Pakistan Journalists Union” covering 70 years of its struggle for freedom of expression and the economic rights of media workers was also launched. Speakers included: Sindh Information Minister and PPP leader Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Federal Minister and Leader of the Muttahida Qaumi-Pakistan Movement Syed Aminul Haque, former governor and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Leader Nawaz Mohammad Zubair, Pakistan Human Rights Commission Co-chair Asad Iqbal Butt, senior politician Dr Farooq Sattar, president of the Awami Sindh National Party, Shahi Syed, senior lawyer Shahadat Awan, senior journalist Hamid Mir, Mazhar Abbas, PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi.
The speakers emphasized that there was an urgent need for substantive laws to protect the journalist community and asked the Sindh government and political parties that have representatives in the Sindh Assembly to pass a journalist safety bill from the legislature.
Speaking at the event, Sindh Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Sindh Council would soon pass the journalist protection bill and also announce to include journalists in the Labor Welfare Program on the recommendation of PFUJ and KUJ. Federal Minister Aminul Haque said that MQM-P has always supported the demands of journalists both inside and outside the parliament.
Hamid Mir said that journalists themselves cannot fight for press freedom and therefore only the collective struggle of groups representing workers, students, lawyers, professionals, doctors and teachers will achieve this goal. Mazhar Abbas highlighted the history of the struggle for press freedom in Pakistan, mentioning how journalists have always fought for constitutional supremacy in the country.
Giving a three-month ultimatum to the government, Shahzada Zulfiqar of PFUJ said that if issues related to media workers and press freedom are not resolved, a campaign will be launched from Quetta which will be closed in Islamabad.
Former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure a free and fair media. Asad Iqbal Butt from HRCP said that while freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, the government must ensure the protection of journalists.
Lawyer Shahadat Awan said that journalists and lawyers always work together for the supremacy of the constitution and ensure that the legal fraternity will always defend journalists’ rights.