The past few weeks have been disturbing for press freedom, and freedom of expression in Pakistan as it takes even a harder hit from politicians leveling allegations to blemish media’s reputation, Freedom Network [FN] notes.
The cause of concern is fresh accusation from Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, who on 15 September 2014 told his supporters at Islamabad that “some” TV anchors, who “gave wrong figures” about the strength of his protest sit-in, were “a saleable commodity.”
FN, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organisation said on 18 September 2014 in a press freedom alert that “We take the allegation very seriously which amounts to infringing on right to expression and defaming media people without presenting any solid evidence to substantiate the accusation.”
“Airing such allegations in public being telecast live on several news channels amounts to building pressure on free media practitioners. Imran Khan should have tried to substantiate ‘real figures’ rather than expressing his anger in public,” the FN press freedom alert said.
The press freedom organistion adds that respect to freedom of expression is part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s manifesto. “It (PTI) also vows to struggle for rule of law and sovereignty of the national Parliament to defend democracy. We hope the party, its leaders and workers will work together with all media stakeholders to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.”
FN was concerned that such serious and wild accusation against unnamed anchors in public would instigate hatred, anger and violence against them who share opinion about international, national and regional issues concerning Pakistani nation.
“Accurate presentation of facts and figures also forms key principle of ethical journalism,” FN also reminds anchors that it’s their duty to give out only genuine figures. “Speculating or guessing in such places is always bound to further confuse the overall picture. All need to be very careful.”
“We are also worried for safety of TV crews, reporters, photographers and media assistants covering the continuing month-long sit-in. Also those involved in attacks on them recently have not been held accountable either by their parties or the authorities so far. Lack of any accountability by both to discipline the workers raises fears that the crews, reporters, photographers and media assistants experience more violence as the sit-in goes on,” the FN alert warns.
Even female journalists have been harassed while performing their professional duties.
Although Khan has denied his supporters’ involvement in 1st September 2014 attack on the headquarters of public broadcaster Pakistan Television in Islamabad, but no evidence was shared to believe the attackers were not his party’s supporters, the FN alert further says.
Several attacks on Geo News channel’s bureau, near the venue of the sit-in, has caused damages to the building, personal properties of the journalists working there and, above all, sense of insecurity since the protestors camped there.
FN hoped the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s chairman, Imran Khan, will avail of available remedy to air any grievance against media, if any be, and direct his workers to facilitate the working journalists instead harassing or intimidating them.
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