March 18th, 2021
By Staff Reporter
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has announced that journalists will hold a long march from Quetta to Islamabad in the first week of April if the federal government fails to resolve the media crisis in the country.
The announcement was made In a declaration read out by Nasir Zaidi, the PFUJ’s Secretary-General, on the conclusion of a seminar on Freedom of the Press and Resolution of Media Crisis on Wednesday, March 17, in Islamabad. Zaidi said the PFUJ had given a three-month deadline to the government to take demonstrable action to resolve journalists and media’s issues.
The union said that media persons and journalism are facing extreme pressures in exercising their right to expression and media freedom, asking the government to formulate a framework in discussion with the PFUJ and other stakeholders that could provide physical, economic, and mental protection to the journalists and media workers.
“Failing to do so would force the journalists’ supreme body to resort to a long march that would start from Quetta to Islamabad in the first week of April, in line with the declaration unanimously passed at PFUJ’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Lahore,” the declaration reads. The PFUJ cautioned that the long march would finally turn into a sit-in in front of the Parliament, which will continue until the government accepts all its demands.
PFUJ finalizes draft of Journalists’ Protection Bill
The PFUJ reminded the government that an immediate, formal, and structured dialogue to finalize the long-overdue legislation for journalists’ protection and safety was a prerequisite to demonstrate its commitment to media independence and the free press.
The provisions stifling expression on electronic, print, and social media need revisiting as choking voices and silencing dissent cannot resolve the grave issues of Pakistan’s state, democracy, and polity, Zaid said.
The PFUJ has finalized a draft of the Journalists Protection Bill that will be submitted in the parliament after approval from its Federal Executive Council, he added.
No action against killers of journalists
The PFUJ noted that the government has consistently failed to deliver on its commitment to free media and instead sat silently in numerous cases of intimidation and physical harm to journalists at the hands of still ‘unknown culprits’.
“Not a single instance of arrest and punishment of perpetrators has occurred. It only reinforces the widespread perception that either the government is helpless or is an accomplice,” reads the declaration.
Zaidi said the government can undo this perception by expediting the ongoing probes into such incidents and arrest and indict responsible individuals under anti-terrorism laws. Such prompt measures are necessary to nurture an environment where journalists can function without fear of intimidation and harm to bring truth and facts to the public, which is the only strong scaffolding to a democratic structure that is vibrant.
PFUJ, formed in Karachi on August 2, 1950, to protect journalists’ rights and press freedom, also took strong exception to the worsening working environment for journalists amid a media industry that is thriving without being regulated under the applicable laws.
“Instead of using the publicity budget to appease the compliant media, the government must allocate the financial resources to all television and radio channels and newspapers based on viewership and readership,” the union said.
8000 journalists jobless
The PFUJ said the government’s unclear policy on using its publicity budget is one of the primary reasons for the journalists’ and media industry workers’ economic ordeal. “As many as 8,000 journalists and media workers have lost their jobs over the past couple of years under arbitrary retrenchments and illegal terminations by news organizations in violation of the laws that govern contracts and employment,” the union said.
With a complete sense of impunity, media managers and owners do not pay the rightful dues of terminated or retrenched employees. The PFUJ pointed out that there were instances of media houses’ management threatening and abusing journalists and workers for demanding their rights.
Call to enforce Wage Board Award
The PFUJ urged the government to take immediate measures to ensure full enforcement of the Wage Board Award under the applicable laws and penalize outlets that do not give the legal dues to workers.
The government is duty-bound to ensure its implementation. Inaction will mean the government is unable to fulfill its legal responsibilities.