PJSC Calls On PM Shehbaz Sharif To Implement Law On Journalists Safety

ISLAMABAD, 2 May 2024: The Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-federal chapter called Thursday on the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to immediately implement “the Protection for Journalists and Media Professionals Act-2021” by notifying an independent safety commission mandated by the law.

The call from PJSC comes as the World Press Freedom Day is marked globally, including Pakistan, today – May 3.

“The PJSC would like to remind Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of the public promise he made in December 2022 with the journalist community at an international conference in Islamabad when he expressed the ‘resolve to fully implement’ the law and take proactive measures for its enforcement,” PJSC-federal chapter said in a statement issued by media watchdog Freedom Network hosting the secretariat for the chapter.

It said the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also promised in its election manifesto to form the safety commission for journalists as part of its commitment to upholding the right to freedom of expression.

“It is time to deliver on these promises.”

The federal law for journalists’ safety was passed by Parliament in December 2021 during the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. However, it remains dysfunctional because successive governments have failed to constitute the Commission for the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals to perform the functions of the law.

The commission is supposed to order inquiries into complaints of threats and attacks against journalists, recommend cases for compensation, facilitate provision of legal aid to journalists, ensure the enforcement of laws related to the welfare and employment of journalists.

In the absence of the commission, the impunity of crimes against journalists remains unchallenged. According to a new report by the media rights watchdog Freedom Network, at least 104 threats and attacks against journalists were documented nationwide between April 2023 and March 2024 alone, with 27 of these violations reported from the federal capital, Islamabad. It is unacceptable that despite the existence of a special law for their safety, journalists are deprived of accessing the legally mandated forum for their protection.

The PJSC-federal chapter “demands the federal government to end the delay in establishing the commission and facilitate the process for the protection of journalists, media workers, content producers and media houses on an urgent basis.” The coalition also urged Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar to facilitate the appointment of the commission’s chairperson as mentioned in the law.

The urgent enforcement of the law by establishing the safety commission will also allow Pakistan to fulfill its international obligations and commitments under the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issues of Impunity and the Sustainable Development Goals Target 16.10.

The PJSC is a coalition of Pakistani stakeholders including key media and journalists’ bodies, freedom of expression and right to information groups, human rights organizations, digital rights advocates, the academia and media support groups. These stakeholders have been working with federal and provincial governments, national parliament, provincial legislatures and political parties to collaboratively strengthen safety of journalists and media freedoms in Pakistan. – ENDS

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