ISLAMABAD: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said Pakistan can be a role model in the region and among the Muslim countries with reference to the media but the government needed to maintain a steady pace in resolving issues confronting the journalists.
A delegation led by Kati Marton, the CPJ board member, is visiting the country to assess the ground realities related to the freedom of the press and the government’s response to security issues faced by the journalists.
During a recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the CPJ asked for including the protection of journalists in the upcoming peace talks with the outlawed Taliban.
“Pakistan is a paradox. It has a free and vibrant press but it is insecure,” Ms Marton said while talking to Dawn.
The CPJ is a US-based independent, non-profit organisation working for promoting press freedom worldwide. It defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.
After her meeting with the prime minister, it was decided that a joint government-journalist commission will be established to address continued attacks on journalists and the impunity with which they occur.
It was also decided that a new programme will soon be launched to expedite the prosecution of the killers of journalists.
Ms Marton confirmed headway over both the decisions as the team also held a meeting with the federal information minister who is also the law minister in the current cabinet.
She stressed that the need for such programmes had increased as the regional situation was changing, adding Pakistan was assuming a more important role.
“Press in Pakistan is enormously important and the US will continue to support the cause of the press freedom and safety of journalists in Pakistan.” she said.
“This is what my late husband Richard Holbrooke always said; he was dedicated to have good relations between Pakistan and the US.”
Ms Marton herself had suffered due to persecution of the press as her parents, who were also working journalists, got imprisoned for two years during the 1950s uprising in Hungry. Later, they moved to the US.
The CPJ delegation has also been successful in persuading the authorities to continue to expand Pakistan’s media freedom and address the insecurity plaguing the journalists.
“PM Sharif has spoken in support of media freedom and in support of journalists under attack, particularly in high-conflict areas like Balochistan and Fata,” she added.
The delegation also obtained a commitment from the prime minister to ease visa and travel restrictions on foreign journalists working in the county.
In the meantime, the CPJ expressed concerns over the recent demand by Saudi Arabia that Qatar should shut down Al-Jazeera network.
“We are seriously concerned over this Saudi demand. We have expressed our concern to them but one of our delegations needs to go there to discuss the matter,” she added.
The CPP delegation included board member Ahmed Rashid, executive director Joel Simon and CPJ Asia programme coordinator Robert Dietz.