ISLAMABAD, 07 February 2024: Mainstream political religious and regional parties committed publicly to protecting journalists and defending freedom of expression as they issued for February 8 general elections taking place today (Thursday).
Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Network and 14 other Pakistani press freedom organizations penned a joint letter in September 2023 for 14 mainstream political, religious and regional parties to make public commitment to combating impunity for crimes against journalists and defending freedom of expression in national and provincial assemblies if they are voted to power in Thursday’s elections.
“The overall responses are encouraging,” Freedom Network said on Wednesday in a press release. “The intent is clear although some political parties’ manifestos wording needed to be stronger,” the statement read.
Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), Awami National Party, Qaumi Watan Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Hazara Democratic Party, Baluchistan Awami Party, National Party, Baluchistan National Party (Mengal) and Muttahida Qaumi Party-Pakistan were targeted in RSF-led advocacy campaign to win these parties commitment to the issues of journalists safety and freedom of expression.
Click link to read the joint letter of 16 press freedom organizations in September 2023.
Both safety of journalists and freedom of expression are under attacks from all sides in Pakistan as threat actors include state and non-state actors besides other pressure groups. Impunity for crimes against journalists in Pakistan is very high and media is working under great deal of pressures from all sides, particularly from the state institutions and authorities.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), Baluchistan Awami Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Qaumi Watan Party did not provide their manifestos while remaining others shared their manifestos. “We do not believe in gimmicks of words,” JUI-F secretary information Aslam Ghauri told Freedom Network.
In September 2023 joint letter, these parties were asked “to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists.”
RSF and its Pakistan partner Freedom Network and 14 other organizations, including Pakistan federal Union of Journalists, Karachi, Punjab, Baluchistan and Khyber Union of Journalists, Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, Quetta Press Club, Peshawar Press Club and National Press Club, Islamabad, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), and Hamid Mir signed this joint letter.
Traditionally, political parties are strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right.