ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Thursday directed the Ministry of Interior and provincial inspectors general to set up a hotline for the journalists facing life threats from terrorists.
While noting that the committee had directed in its meeting on February 14 that a hotline be established for the journalists to contact for quick response when they are in danger, Committee Chairperson Marvi Memon expressed displeasure over the fact that the committee’s directives were not taken seriously. She also lamented the absence of the Punjab Police IG, who was to submit a detailed report over a gun attack on a journalist, Raza Rumi, in Lahore.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Pervaiz Rashid and the committee suggested strong action against the Punjab IG for not attending the meeting of the committee. Ihsan Ghani from the National Police Bureau informed the committee that despite several contacts with the Punjab Police, it had not corresponded regarding the IG’s attendance of the committee meeting. However, the committee directed the Punjab Police to submit a detailed report on the Rumi incident within 24 hours.
The legislators noted that along with polio workers, journalists are also being attacked continuously. Meanwhile, police officials told the committee that emergency response service Rescue 1122 and police helpline 15 are working actively in all the provinces, and everyone, including journalists, can access them in times of emergency. But the committee and the information minister stressed creation of a hotline specifically for the journalists.
Information and broadcasting secretary informed the committee that his ministry is going to establish a hotline by April 8 in consultation with the provinces. While noting that journalists face threats from a plethora of terrorist organisations, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid stated that the government wants to take action against them, but he asked the media houses to also condemn the terrorists who target journalists, and avoid giving them coverage.
“Do not put all the responsibility on the government,” he said while suggesting that there is a need for change in attitude. “Pakistan is confronting a war-type situation and we all have to fight for it,” Rashid said. Meanwhile, Marvi Memon said the journalists and the committee have 21 demands that they want the government to fulfil. She said these unanimous recommendations will be submitted to the National Assembly speaker.
The committee took strict notice of the Punjab IG’s absence and said a notice will be sent to him. It observed that the security of the media in Pakistan is the responsibility of the state, the executive branch and parliament. The committee proclaimed that its intends to ensure that any issues related to the security of media are given top priority so that it could function without fear.