January 16, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) has launched a decisive movement for the resolution of issues faced by media workers in the country, setting a three-month deadline for the government to take tangible actions towards a framework that can provide physical, economic, and mental security to media persons, said Nasir Zaidi, the PFUJ’s Secretary General, as he read out a declaration.
Speaking to Voicepk.net on the sidelines of a seminar, hosted by the union, on freedom of expression and resolution of media crisis in Lahore on January 15, Shahzada Zulfiqar, President of PFUJ, said that civil rights activists, trade unionists, journalists, lawyers, and opposition parties have pledged support and backing for the journalists’ movement for their rights and financial security.
He said close to 10,000 media workers had been rendered jobless and forcefully retrenched in recent years.
“The only thing that I am unsure about is the government response to our demands,” he said, adding that if the concerns and issues faced by the media workers are not addressed, the media workers will resort to strikes, protests, and lockdowns across the country.
In his address, human rights activist and senior journalist IA Rehman said that the only difference between the past governments and the present ruling elite was that the former tolerated the press as a ‘necessary evil’ while the latter considered it to be an ‘unnecessary evil’.
Regretting that the two big media houses in the country which had assets in billions of rupees were delaying salaries to its media workers, senior journalist Husain Naqi said the time has come to launch a joint struggle by the media workers, trade unionists, lawyers, and social activists for their rights.
In his opinion, senior journalist Imtiaz Alam said the unholy alliance between the government and the media outlet owners had exacerbated the financial crunch faced by journalists in the shape of joblessness, retrenchment and delay in salaries.
He said journalists are the victims of the hybrid war, adding that media and military relationships also need to be looked into and reworked.
Senior representatives of the lawyers’ community Hamid Khan and Abid Saqi assured the support to the PFUJ drive, adding that the lawyers already were providing free legal aid to journalists who were implicated in court cases on trumped charges as part of a campaign to silence critical voices as well restrict freedom of expression in the country.
“Today’s conference is a testament that the journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, and activists come together to find a way for the resolution of the media crisis,” he said.
The newer generation of journalists present at the conference was also unanimous that the media community should unite to make the PFUJ movement for the resolution of their issues a success.
“The situation is very bleak,” said Sana Rauf. “Channels are shutting down their bureaus while big newspapers have also closed down, causing great economic hardship for young journalists like us.”
The opposition parties attending the conference also pledged support to the PFUJ movement for the rights of the media workers.
Chaudhary Manzoor of the Pakistan Peoples Party said his party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was ready to sit with the journalist community to work out a strategy to resolve issues faced by journalists.
“The present government has been exploiting unorganized workers which have swelled to the highest number in the country’s history,” he said.
Azma Bokhari of the Pakistan Muslim League-N says the ruling government has placed stringent curbs on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. “The impact of the media restrictions has been borne by political activists as well as media workers,” she added.
Huqooq-e-Khalq Movement General Secretary Farooq Tariq, former PFUJ president Sher Afzal Butt and leaders from Istaqlal Party and Shia Political Party also addressed the conference.