ISLAMABAD: Parliamentarians and journalists here on Tuesday affirmed their resolve to strive to strengthen democratic institutions and uphold freedom of expression.
They were speaking at a seminar on “Youm-e-Azm” organised by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) at the National Press Club to reiterate their resolve and acknowledge the sacrifices of journalists for the freedom of expression during the Zia regime.
Four journalists — Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Hashmi, Iqbal Jafri and Masoodullah Khan — were flogged on May 13, 1978 during Ziaul Haq’s despotic regime for protesting against censorship and in favour of freedom of expression.
The speakers said they will not become party to the current media-state institutions conflict, but will not allow anyone to curb freedom of expression either.
Journalists’ representatives said that they will welcome any solution to the current crisis.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah paid tribute to working journalists, lawyers, workers and peasants who stood against the atrocities of the military dictator and struggled for restoration of democracy and freedom of the press. Their commitment to their cause and bravery against the policies of the dictator was unprecedented, he said.
While addressing the gathering, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Javed Hashmi acknowledged the role of security agencies and the media in defending the country and society against internal and external threats. He stressed the need for harmony and understanding among state institutions and urged them to function within their constitutional limits.
Pakistan People’s Party Senator Raza Rabbani said Zia’s era was the darkest chapter of our history. “Sectarianism, intolerance, and drug culture are the gifts of Zia regime” he said.
He salutes the journalists, and the 82,000 political workers who were subjected to torture and jailed for raising their voices for democracy and freedom. There is a need to unite against the forces that are trying to derail democracy. He said that it was quite regrettable that we had failed to transfer our legacy to coming generations. He added that strong institutions are imperative for the safety of journalists.
Earlier, PFUJ President Afzal Butt vowed that the journalists would continue their struggle for making the state institutions strong and render sacrifices for the freedom of expression.
Others speakers included Senator Mushahid Hussain and Aitzaz Ahsan.
They were also of the view that we should make efforts for the freedom of expression, justice and democracy in the country. They said that some elements were trying to derail democracy in the country but we would not let it happen.
The speakers also highlighted the problems confronted by journalists. They said that journalists should not be left at the mercy of influential persons and groups. There is a dire need to address their economic problems. Steps should also be taken to ensure the safety of journalists.
In the end, Nasir Zaidi and Iqbal Jafri were garlanded in appreciation of their services for freedom of expression.