ISLAMABAD, 28 September: As the situation of journalists in Pakistan worsens in the run-up to the general elections, 16 media organisations launched Tuesday a crucial appeal to the key mainstream and regional political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom.
As Pakistan is about to hold general elections and political parties draft new election manifestos to offer voters a package they would like support for as they go to the polls, the country’s leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, Paris-based global media watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network call on mainstream and provincial heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.
“Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 Report stated that there were “no Convictions in 96% of journalist killings” in the past 10 years,” the joint letter said, according to a press release RSF Pakistan representative issued here Tuesday.
It said: “Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus, denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.”
Karachi Press Club, Lahore Press Club, Quetta Press Club, National Press Club, Islamabad, Peshawar Press Club, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Karachi Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists, Balochistan Union of Journalists, Khyber Union of Journalists,
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP),
Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Freedom Network, Reporters Without Borders and
TV journalist Hamid Mir co-authored this joint letter.
“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. Pakistan’s press clubs along with journalists unions, press freedom organisations and editors body for electronic media, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them,” according to RSF South Asia desk.
The statement recalled that traditionally, political parties were 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,” the statement said.
“We ask these federal and regional political parties 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,” the press freedom organizations, key press clubs, unions of journalists, editors of electronic media and journalist Hamid Mir emphasized.
The following political parties were delivered this joint letter to seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections:
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman group), Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami National Party, Muttehida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Baluchistan Awami Party, Baluchistan National Party (Mengal group), Qaumi Watan Party, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), Hazara Democratic Party and National Party.