ISLAMABAD, 16 March 2021: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Islamabad-based media watchdog organization Freedom Network (FN) joined hands last year to help 80 journalists, who tested positive for Coronavirus, stay safe through medical assistance including treatment.
PFUJ, the country’s largest representative body of working journalists and media workers, and award-winning FN, which works with media stakeholders to help defend freedom of expression, protect journalists and assist them under Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund (PJSF), signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 to undertake the single biggest medical assistance program for journalists in Pakistan.
The need for medical assistance arrived when PFUJ in May 2020 set up a special ‘Corona Rescue Committee’ under Zulfiqar Ali Mehto’s supervision to document all cases of journalists who tested positive for Coronavirus. The committee documented over a hundred journalists who had tested positive across the country. Three of them succumbed to the deadly virus. The rest survived and overcame their affliction.
The joint PFUJ-FN medical assistance program was supported by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Media Support (IMS).
“Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is grateful of this timely assistance by Freedom Network for journalist community during spread of deadly pandemic of Covid-19, that saved dozens of lives of journalists and media workers, when media industry is facing retrenchments, delays in salaries, and closure of media houses,” Shehzada Zuliqar, the PFUJ president, said.
“We are pleased these two organizations jointly launched this major medical assistance program across Pakistan to help journalists and media workers fight the deadly effects of Coronavirus and stay healthy to resume active journalism,” Iqbal Khattak, the executive director of Freedom Network, said.
“I am delighted to see that 99 percent journalists assisted through this programme survived and are back in newsrooms and the reporting fields to resume their careers and to sustain independent journalism,” he added.
Khattak said the major medical assistance program was unique in its nature as it helped journalists, the practitioners of a critically important profession, be recognized as “frontline heroes” just as doctors, paramedics, security personnel and others who risked their lives to save others during the pandemic.
Under the landmark medical assistance program that lasted several weeks in the most critical phases of the pandemic in Pakistan, journalists and media workers, including women, for print and electronic media based in Islamabad and all the four provinces were provided medical assistance.
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