GB court verdict threat to press freedom

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KARACHI: The president of the Council of Pakistan News­paper Editors (CPNE), Mujibur Rehman Shami, and the president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Hameed Haroon, have, in a joint statement, expressed dismay at what they called unlawful conviction of Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jang-Geo media group and associated media persons, by an anti-terrorism court in Gilgit-Baltistan.

They said that the conviction was incompatible with press freedoms enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution and that the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment & Self-Governance) Order, 2009 under which the judicature of that territory had been set up, was violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all Pakistani citizens in the Constitution. They said: “The unlawful conviction of media persons in Gilgit-Baltistan constitutes a major threat to the existence of a free press throughout the country.”

The joint statement issued on Friday further said that whereas some fundamental rights had been conferred under the controversial order, two major fundamental rights enjoyed by citizens of Pakistan under the 1973 Constitution were notably missing from it — the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 10A and 13 of the Constitution.

CPNE, APNS urge PM to take notice of ‘unlawful conviction’

The statement pointed out that Article 10A provides that in any criminal charge, a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process and Article 13 guarantees that “no person shall be prosecuted for the same offence more than once”.

“Thus, if citizens of Pakistan not resident or not even physically present in the territory, were to be transported for trial from Pakistan to Gilgit-Baltistan for alleged offences, such persons would be denied two important fundamental rights.”

The presidents of CPNE and APNS have urged the prime minister to take immediate notice of the ‘unacceptable and anomalous’ situation by appropriately modifying the Order 2009. “Under Article 31 of this controversial order, the executive authority of the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan must be exercised to secure compliance with Pakistan laws, and this is a process that must be initiated immediately.”

Under Article 34 of the order, the prime minister has the power to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court or tribunal of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The statement said that the prime minister “must exercise his power to dispose of the sentence by the anti-terrorism court in Gilgit-Baltistan. Otherwise, Pakis­­tani journalists would always remain in fear of being dragged into criminal proceedings by a flawed dispensation in Gilgit-Baltistan on the flimsiest of pretexts — that their reportage has also been disseminated in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Dawn

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