Freedom Network [FN] welcomes the March 19, 2014 announcement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to set up a commission for safety and security of journalists in Pakistan, a demand both national and international media watchdog organizations have been making to fight back the deep-rooted impunity of crimes against media in the country.
“This announcement by the prime minister is a firm step in the right direction at the right time as media is facing a range of threats from various actors in the current adverse security environment prevailing in the country,” FN, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization, said on March 20, 2014 in a press freedom alert.
It said the government’s efforts at addressing the threats against journalists would be most effective when they are combined with consultation with media houses, working journalists and civil society organizations working on media safety issues.
“FN has extended cooperation and partnership to all the stakeholders, including Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety, to provide technical and other input during the two-member ministerial committee in Islamabad on February 4, 2014. The organization renews this offer of cooperation and partnership,” the alert said.
The prime minister made the announcement during a meeting with high-level delegation of Committee to Protect Journalists, the New York-based press freedom organization, in Islamabad on March 19, 2014.
“This commission will propose measures to be adopted by the government to protect journalists in the field and to ensure their wellbeing,” an official statement quoted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as saying. “This would be a commission comprising of media persons, public figures and government members,” it added.
“I want to make Pakistan a journalist-friendly country where not only national but international media community should feel safe, secure and respected” Premier Sharif told the delegation visiting Pakistan to assess the media-related safety situation and impunity of crimes against the media. This commission will also suggest ways and means to effectively monitor the prosecution of crimes against journalists, the prime minister went on to add.
Mrs Kati Marton, the widow of late US ambassador Richard Holbrooke, was leading the CPJ delegation to Pakistan. She appreciated the government’s resolve towards strengthening democratic institutions.
The delegation also handed Mr Sharif a set of recommendations for “improving press freedom in Pakistan.” FN has obtained the set of recommendations which include the issues of impunity and safety, legal cases of journalists killed in line of duty, online freedom and visa restrictions for foreign correspondents and media organizations partnering with local media and media development organizations facing long delays and refusals to get visa for Pakistan.
FN also hails statement of commitment by Federal Information Minister Pervez Rasheed for the cause freedom of expression and safety of media houses and working journalists. “Support for press freedom has been great asset I have and I will never step back from this support,” the information minister told the third meeting of Steering Committee of Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety in Islamabad on March 19 where media owners, editors, working journalists and national and international media friends of Pakistan considered and approved reports of two Working Groups to prepare safety protocols for the media houses and establishment of special public prosecutor to deal impunity.
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