October 21st, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Journalists, lawyers, civil society representatives, leaders from labour unions and opposition political parties have reiterated their support to Pakistan Federation Union of Journalists’ Long March to be announced next month.
The expression of support was given at a convention on ‘Legislation, Regulation and Media Crisis –The Way Forward’, organized jointly by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Punjab Union of Journalists and Lahore Press Club, at a local hotel in the city.
In his address, PFUJ General Secretary Nasir Zaidi has said that there can be no negotiation on the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) law as it was a martial law. “The PFUJ wants a dialogue with the government staying within the 19-point charter of demands it presented to the government earlier,” Zaidi said.
Zaidi said the date of PFUJ’s Long March next month will be announced at the Islamabad Convention. He called for a broad-based alliance of all those who are struggling for their rights and the state is not ready to give them their rights. The long march that will start from Quetta and conclude in Islamabad with a sit-in, he added.
PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar said that the journalists’ movement is not only for the rights of media workers but also for the rights of the whole society. The rise in Inflation and unemployment had put immense pressure on people from all walks of life, he added.
Zulfiqar said the media’s job is to report the truth. “The war we are waging is in the interest of the society, it is to protect people’s right to receive correct information,” he added.
“A group of rulers is pushing Pakistan to anarchy,” said veteran journalist Hussain Naqi. The PFUJ had been struggling for economic rights and the right to information and freedom of expression, he added. “We lost East Pakistan because the public had no access to information,” he said. Naqi advised that if journalists wanted their movement to succeed, they should take students along as well.
Hamid Khan, veteran lawyer and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, lamented the ongoing ‘judicial engineering’ which he said directly affected the freedom of media in the country. “A free media is possible only with an independent judiciary,” he pointed out.
Imtiaz Alam of South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) said the media’s interest is in protecting public interest. “There is no freedom. Space for civilians has shrunk over time. The next war will be on the roads,” he said.
Khurshid Ahmed, Secretary General of All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union, said the media owners and the rulers seemed to harbour ill intentions towards the media workers. He said labour unions and workers would rally behind the journalists’ movement.
Senior journalist Naveed Chaudhry said that the governments have always influenced the media, regretting that the Sindh High Court had blocked transmission of the newly-launched City 21 news channel in Karachi. Javed Farooqi, Acting President, Lahore Press Club, said the economic condition of the media workers has become dire due to the media crisis.
Jawad Ahmad of Barabri Party said journalists need to project that political party which stands with the workers and the labourers. “Imran Khan cannot be representative of such a party as he owns 14 properties,” he said. The Barabri Party chief vowed to support the media in its struggle.
Sabahat Rizvi, member of the Pakistan Bar Council’s Journalists Defence Committee (JDC), said her committee had provided legal assistance to 11 journalists in cybercrime and sedition cases.
Pakistan Peoples Party Central Punjab Information Secretary Shehzad Saeed Cheema and ANP Punjab General Secretary Amir Bahadur Khan Hoti also reiterated their parties support to the cause of the freedom of expression in the country. In his welcome address, PUJ President Qamar Bhatti and former President PFUJ Afzal Butt also addressed the gathering.