17th June 2021
The All Pakistan Lawyers Convention on Assault on Judiciary and Media was held on Thursday under the auspices of the Supreme of the Supreme Court Bar Association in partnership with the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), AGHS and South Asia Free Media Association. The convention unanimously resolved to resist persistent attacks on the media and the judiciary by a hybrid authoritarian regime and its above-the-law perpetrators.
Over 500 leading lawyers, prominent working journalists, civil society activists, and democratic representatives of the people participated in the deliberations. Speakers called for the constitution of a broader front in the face of assault on the judiciary and media in the country.
Prominent speakers included Qalbe Hassan, fromer SCBA chief, Nasir Zaidi, PFUJ Secretary General, Senator Tahir Bizenjo from National Party, Hina Jilani, chairperson of HRCP, Farhatullah Babar, former PPP senator, Sherry Rehman, PPP MNA, Ahmed Ali Kurd, fromer SCBA president, Maryam Aurangzeb, PML-N MNA, Imtiaz Alam from SAFMA, Afrasiab Khattak, former HRCP chairperson, Mohsin Dawar, MNA from Waziristan, Raza Rabbani, former senate chairperson, Syed Manoor Gillani, Chairman of Istiqlal Party, Amber Shamsi, broadcast journalist, the BHCBA president, Talat Hussain, senior journalist, Abdul Majeed Kanju, Saraiki National Party President, Hamid Mir, senior journalist, Azam Nazeer Tarar, PML-N senator, Munizae Jahangir, senior journalist, Abid Saqi, former PBC vice chairperson, Khushdil Khan, PBC vice chairperson, and Lateef Afridi, President of the SCBAP.
The resolution adopted on the conclusion of the convention demanded that:
- The civil-military, the executive-judiciary and media-military relations be reset in accordance with the imperatives of the constitution and all interference by the military and its agencies in the civil affairs must come to an end; all institutions of the state must strictly adhere to their constitutional mandate and stop interfering into the businesses of other state institutions; and the armed forces must obey the elected government within the prescribed legal framework. Interference in judicial functions, manipulation of juridical processes, vilification of valiant judges by the government and the powers that be must be stopped forthwith and those involved in such detestable activities must be brought to book.
- The judiciary must rise to the occasion, guard its independence by shunning external pressures, rationalize its suo moto powers without overlapping the functions of the civilian executive, play a pro-active role in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the people, missing persons and dissenting voices in particular.
- All visible and invisible interference by the government and security agencies in the free functioning of media must be stopped, freedom of expression and the right to know must be respected and strengthened, access to information and free flow of information must be guaranteed.
- Bring an end to reverse-application of hybrids warfare against the media and civil society, dissenting and critical voices in particular; withdrawal of all kinds of curbs on ‘freedom of opinion and expression without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’ (Article-19), stop censorship and avoid self-censorship, stop subjugating media industry; restore most distinguished journalists sidelined under coercion, stop interfering in editorial policy, talk shows and reporting, refrain from taking off air TV/radio broadcasts for not obeying illegitimate directives, stop halting newspapers’ circulation, restore 8000 retrenched media workers with full back benefits, pay journalists salaries on time and clear their arrears promptly, withdraw black media laws, including the proposed Ordinance of Media Development Authority, PEMRA, Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and Citizens Protection (against Online Harm) Rules 2020 to suppress social media and online journalism, in particular, immediately implement Wage Board Award-2019, stop dividing various stakeholders of media and undermining collective bargaining rights of media professionals; endorse PFUJ’s 18-point Charter of Demands.
- Ensure the prompt release of all Missing Persons and bring them into the purview of law, pay reparations to the aggrieved families and bring the abductors to justice.
The convention demanded that in view of a statement made by Justice Shoukat Aziz Siddiqui before the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the role of Chief of an intelligence agency, influencing him in judicial matters, an independent and high level Commission be constituted to inquire into this matter.