- Journalist body issues Karachi Declaration after three-day FEC meeting
KARACHI: The three-day meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) under the chairmanship of Shahzada Zulfiqar, the president of the union, deliberated upon a host of issues confronting the media industry, particularly the journalist community and media workers in Pakistan. It expressed collective alarm over the continued systematic erosion of media rights, denial of freedom of expression and intimidation of voices of dissent by both non-state and state actors.
The meeting observed that deepening threats to the constitutional right of freedom of speech and independence of the press is further affecting professional responsibilities of media workers impeding accountability and aggravating governance issues, thus relegating Pakistan down to the bottom of global rankings on media and democracy. The Council particularly referred to the recently released Freedom Network’s Annual State of Press Freedom Report 2022 according to which at least 86 cases of attacks and violations against media and its practitioners took place in Pakistan in just one year from May 2021 to April 2022.
The Council expressed its concern at such blatant violations of fundamental right of expression in the country. The FEC also showed serious concerns over the recent FIA actions to restrict media freedom through courts. Though the new government has distanced itself from pursuing any cases to curb free speech, there is a clear and present danger against media professionals. The Council pointed out that PECA in its original forms was also not an ideal law and needs to be more accommodating to ensure freedom of expression and prevent violations of this fundamental right. The PFUJ reiterated its resolve to resist any designs to gag the media and punish journalists.
The Council demanded that media workers must be facilitated to perform their duties without any fear of reprisal from both non-state and state actors. In this regard, the Council also urged the government to ensure that nobody can undermines the judiciary for their own benefits. The FEC expressed its commitment to defeat all such tactics, laws and amendments designed to suppress media and freedom of speech at all forums including challenging them in courts of law and before the higher judiciary. The FEC meeting concluded that the overall threat to press freedom in Pakistan still remains potent and efforts are still being made to make media pliant.
Retrenchments, enforced ban on certain journalists and anchorpersons, abductions, arrests, and killings of journalists must be prevented by the new government. The Council declared that any attempts to put pressure on media houses will be a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution and will be resisted. The FEC expressed alarm at the blatant attempt to squeeze the media of financial viability through withholding of payments of previous public sector advertisements and an undeclared ban on new public sector advertising for certain media houses. The meeting demanded that public sector advertising should not be used as an instrument of control.
The FEC also condemned targeting and trolling of anchorpersons and journalists by certain political parties and non-political groups. The FEC urged the authorities to take concrete measures for safeguarding the life and properties of journalists and media workers. Council considers it shameful that Pakistan still has the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and media professionals. Condemning these actions, the PFUJ body vowed to fight all such moves against freedom of speech and against the citizens’ right to access information from a free media.
The FEC meeting once again urged the government to immediately implement the 8th wage board award in letter and spirit without any further delay as it is a consensus award and urged the owners to fully reverse the pay cuts imposed during Covid-19 and financial crisis of media industry. The FEC meeting concluded with demands to invite stakeholders for the adoption of the Charter of Demands already submitted to the Federal Ministry of information and Broadcasting and to take urgent steps for the development of media industry in Pakistan, ensuring freedom of press and expression and better relations between media and state institutions.