Call to enact law for protection of journalists

F.P. Report

Islamabad: In order to end impunity of crimes against journalists we should first have clear idea of the nature of the crimes against journalists so as to devise a strategy for ending it.

The crimes against journalists basically emanate from the right to freedom of expression, the right to dissent and the right to present alternative security narrative to that pedaled by the state.

This was stated by Senator Farhatullah Babar while speaking at an event in the National Press Club to mark the international day to end impunity of crimes against journalists organized by PFUJ and national NGO.

The pattern is this; Those exercising constitutional right to freedom of expression or offer alternative narratives to that of the state face three threats. One, they get disappeared without a trace. two, they may face prosecution under the Pakistan electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 or they may get beaten black and blue in broad day light by invisible people.

Giving recent examples he said Baloch and Sindhi political activists continue to disappear, journalist in Quetta was charged under PECA for posting comments that the security agencies thought was endangering the federation and Ahmad Noorani of the News was brutally attacked in broad day light in the federal capital.

He called for early enactment of legislation for the protection of journalists.

He said that the FIA report on action taken under Cyber Crimes Act be placed before the Parliament as mandated in the law itself so as to know as to how the provisions of the Act had been misrepresented to stifle dissenting journalists and political activists.

He said that a balance must be struck between considerations of national security that are often used to stifle dissent and considerations of public good that is the essence of a democratic society. An attempt has been made to strike such a balance in the recently promulgated Right to Information law.

Farhatullah Babar said that next week the UN at Geneva will take up the five yearly periodic review of the country’s human rights record, the last  such review was held in 2012.

He urged the journalists community to build pressure on the government ahead of the UPR meeting in Geneva to come out clean on the promises it had made at the time of 2012 review and the steps taken thereafter to ensure safety and security of journalists.

He said that the new legislation should provide for setting up a Special Public Prosecutor to pursue cases of attacks on journalists.

It is unfair to expect journalists to pursue court cases without the backing of the owners of media houses or the state institutions.