Journalists pledge to continue protests

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ISLAMABAD: Despite continuous rain in many cities of the country, journalists on Wednesday continued their protest sit-ins in front of press clubs across the country, vowing not to stop their movement unless the government takes steps to eliminate the no-go areas for news channels and rectify the affairs of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and cable operators who have been continuously ignoring the orders of the apex court to restore Geo News and other channels on their original numbers on cable networks.

Chanting slogans against Pemra and cable operators that are making mockery of the court orders, journalists continued their sit-in at the protest camps to give message to the incumbent government that it cannot defeat their commitment and dedication towards the supreme cause of protection of independence of press in the country.

The media persons pointed out that shutting down and pushing Geo News to the last numbers by the cable operators was a violation of Pemra rules but unfortunately the government was yet to take measures to rectify the situation that was depriving the viewers of their favourite channel.

They made an appeal to the viewers that if cable operators never restored all channels including Geo News to their original numbers then they would not pay their monthly bills as a protest against this illegal practice.

The protest camps have been set up in front of press clubs in various cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Larkana, Abbottabad, Muzaffarabad, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan.

Addressing at the protest camp in front of National Press Club (NPC) Islamabad, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) president Afzal Butt said they would renew their commitment to the cause of freedom of press on July 5 as this day would be observed as a Black Day to pay tribute to the sacrifices of journalists who were flogged on May 13, 1978 including Masoodullah Khan, Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Naeem and Iqbal Jafferi.

He said journalists have a long history of sacrifices so the government should avoid adopting delaying tactics and accept their demands otherwise their protest movement for protection of freedom of press would continue till achievement of the set targets.

Senior journalist Nasir Zaidi said Geo News has completed its 15-day sentence then how can the cable operators block its transmission in violation of rules and procedures. “I ask the government whether it has any authority on Pemra and cable operators or both of them are free to do whatever they want,” he said.

Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) president Ali Raza Alvi said they would file a petition against Pemra and cable operators in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) as it was contempt of court to block transmission of Geo News and ARY Television despite the court orders for their restoration on the cable networks.

He called upon media persons to discharge their duties honestly by playing a positive role to point out irregularities within state institutions and provide direction to society.NPC president Shehryar Khan said tyrants and dictatorial rulers had always tried to curtail the freedom of the press so the present government should avoid following in their footsteps and look into the affairs of Pemra that is behaving like a “bull in the China shop”.

“I salute the journalists who always continue to carry out their professional duties despite facing hardships and even potential threats from various segments. The government can never ever defeat the resolve of committed journalists so it should immediately accept our demands otherwise our protest movement would move forward with more vigour and dedication,” he said.

Multan Press Club president Rauf Maan while addressing the protesting journalists in Multan said the government should prove that it believes in freedom of press and take effective measures to end discrimination towards some media houses especially Jang Group otherwise the journalists would put in all out efforts to protect their independence and freedom of speech.

Sukkur Press Club president Lala Asad Pathan said the history guides them that no government wants to give freedom of press because the rulers think it advisable to mute the voice of media to conceal their wrongdoings, adding, “We have achieved freedom of press through sacrifices and we would not hesitate to render more sacrifices for its protection.”

Our Sukkur correspondent adds: Unions of journalists in Sukkur, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Nausharoferoz, Ghotki and some other cities in Sindh took out protest rallies against non-restoration of Geo News transmission.

A protest rally, led by President of Sukkur Press Club, Lala Asad Pathan, and Jan Muhammad Mahar, President of Sukkur Union of Journalists, was taken out in Sukkur. The rally terminated at the Sukkur Press Club where leaders of journalists’ organizations addressed a sit-in and said that Pemra had illegally suspended the licence of Geo News.

They said that Pemra attempted to create anarchy in Pakistan by suspending the transmission of the channel.They also condemned torturing of journalists in Lahore by the police.They said that such orders of Pemra had been affecting thousands of employees of the news channel.They demanded restoration of Geo News transmission immediately. They also condemned the attack on Imdad Soomro, a reporter of Jang Group, by unidentified accused.

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