media freedom

Pledge to defend media freedom

LAHORE: The final day of the three-day-long All Pakistan Women Journalists Convention (APWJC) drew to a close on Sunday with a declaration, authored by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), on the rights of female and male journalists in the country.

Addressing a gathering of woman journalists and anchors here at the Lahore Press Club, the PFUJ board members announced the declaration, written after two days of APWJC sessions at a local hotel and parallel PFUJ sessions at the press club.

The declaration, on behalf of the PFUJ and participating journalists, condemns the attacks on media persons and cameramen in Pakistan. It calls for special security measures to protect journalists reporting in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Balochistan and Karachi. It also condemns infighting between media outlets and notes the killing of 134 journalists in Pakistan since 1992. The declaration demands of media outlets to ensure that economic rights of employees, including decent wages and insurance cover, are respected, compensation to employees including cameramen and reporters in case of injuries is paid, insurance of cameras belonging to Pakistani cameramen is guaranteed. Other demands include complete freedom of speech for all Pakistani journalists, withdrawal of criminal charges levelled against Baloch journalists, implementation of the 8th Wage Board Award for newspaper workers, trade unions in media outlets, endowment fund for all Pakistani journalists and media workers, and investigation into the verbal and written death threats facing Pakistani journalists.

Another session titled ‘Women Journalists’ Role in Trade Unions and Press Clubs’ was held with PFUJ President Afzal Butt in the chair, under the auspices of the APWJC. A large number of journalists participated in the session.

Afzal Butt told the gathering that he would move a constitutional amendment in the National Press Club, Islamabad, to reserve four senior seats in the press council for woman journalists. These include the post of vice-president, assistant secretary general, and two positions in the governing body.

Butt said the country was passing through a critical phase currently. He said the journalist bodies were making all-out efforts for winning rights for the print and electronic media workers and getting their jobs regularised. He said he was really happy to see such a large number of woman journalists at the convention. He promised that today’s demands would be made part of the PFUJ charter.

Afzal Butt suggested forming harassment committees in all media organisations, offices and press clubs. He said separate committees would be set up in offices and CBA. After consultation with press club governing bodies, committees would be formed and more women would be given representation in those committees.

He mentioned the incident of a female anchor whose salary was reduced by a television channel when she availed leave after the death of her husband. He condemned this kind of inconsiderate attitude of the male bosses in the media outlets.

Afzal Butt said that despite a severe shortage of funds, the convention was organised successfully and at least Rs 60-70 lakh were spent on the event. He praised the LPC for hosting such a historic event.

The PFUJ president also praised Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) senior member Hussain Naqi for contributing towards the fight for press freedom in the country. Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari said it was heartening to note that the first woman journalists’ convention was being held in Lahore. He said such a large number of journalists had never gathered at one place in the history of Pakistan. He termed Saturday’s rally historic. He said the rally footage in TV bulletins showed participation of such a large number of journalists as if a big political party had been holding a rally. He said the journalists bodies were not fighting for any particular media organisation but for the rights of all journalists and media workers. He said that clean and good journalism was directly linked to the economic prosperity of journalists.

Arshad Ansari said that during 2012, the largest number of woman journalists were given LPC membership, which was a historic event.

The woman journalists congratulated the PFUJ for addressing the concerns of women in the media and hosting the first convention for them. The PFUJ former vice president and board member, Fauzia Rana, expressed her hope for an effective implementation of the recommendations regarding working woman journalists in Pakistan. Shazia Mansoor, a female anchorperson who was barred from attending the convention by her bureau chief, attended Sunday’s session and said all woman journalists must assert themselves both within and outside their offices.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation representative Dr Almut Besold said the world was aware of the problems facing Pakistan currently. She said Pakistani journalists’ sacrifices for freedom of press were commendable.

LPC Joint Secretary Farzana Chaudhry said on the occasion women journalists should gather courage and raise their voice for their rights. She said women’s representation in press clubs and journalist bodies was a welcome sign. However, women should not be restricted to only reserved seats and they should be encouraged to contest on open seats. Farzana said woman journalists should also contest for press club president and secretary seats and they should be provided better opportunities in this regard.

Prominent personalities attending Sunday’s session included PFUJ General Secretary Khurshid Abbasi, LPC General Secretary Shahbaz Mian, Karachi Press Club President Imtiaz Ahmed Faraan, All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation (APNEC) Chairman Shafi Uddin Ashraf, senior journalists Nasira Zubairi, Farida Hafeez and Muhammad Saleem Chaudhry, Balochistan Union of Journalists President Irfan Saeed, and Punjab Union of Journalists President Waseem Farooq. Visiting female journalist delegations departed for their cities after the conference programme concluded.

Later, prominent journalists were given awards for their services. Senior journalist Hussain Naqi distributed shields among media persons.

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