ISLAMABAD: Senator Farhatullah Babar Tuesday said the media persons must avail themselves of the two recent opportunities that opened up last week in the Senate to build a legislative framework for the protection and safety of media persons and to end the impunity with which they are attacked both by state and non-state actors.
Addressing a seminar on safety of journalists organised by Freedom Network here Tuesday, senator Farhatullah Babar said the two initiatives he said are: first rejection by the Senate of the information committee of government’s draft Protection of Journalists Bill for not addressing the central issue of safety and deciding to make another one in consultation with all stake holders in line with the UN principles and best international practices.
Second, he said the investigations entrusted to the Interior Committee in the brutal attack recently on The News reporter Ahmad Noorani and other journalists in the past. “The professional media bodies must make their voice heard at these two forums,” he said.
He said the Parliament may have failed in making legislating for across the board accountability of all. It must not fail in making legislation for the protection of media persons. “It will be a disaster if this Parliamentary Committee met the fate of Committee on Accountability law,” he said.
Senator Babar said the legal framework for the protection of media persons should be based on a recognition of four principles. One, he said, that ending impunity of crimes against them and prosecution of cases through Special Public Prosecutor is the state responsibility.
Two, he said, the media houses are responsible for special insurance for working in conflict zones, training of media persons before sending them to conflict zones and not forcing part timers in Fata and Balochistan to dangers. Three, he said creation of a Special Safety and Protection Fund for the rehabilitation of media persons and their families who come to harm in conflict zones. And four, Senator Babar, said the attacks on journalists be properly catalogued and reports of investigations in the attack on them be made public.
He said the law has been amended and now inquiry commissions can publish their reports without seeking approval of the government. This exposure and transparency will help fight impunity,
He also asked the media persons to have basic knowledge of working in a hostile environment. He said it was most disturbing that no record was available of the judicial inquiry carried out in the murder of tribal journalist Hayataullah over a decade ago and called for pursuing investigations in the matter.
Senator Babar said It is a challenge to legislate protection of journalists in a broken criminal justice system. “It is far more daunting to hold accountable those who assault journalists by a parliament that cannot hold accountable the so called sacred cows through an across the board accountability law,” he said.