By: Obaid Abrar Khan
ISLAMABAD: Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) has written a letter to the Chief Secretary Balochistan asking him to extend full support to the three-member fact-finding committee to assess the scale of violence against working journalists in the province.
PCP Chairman Raja Shafqat Abbasi in his letter wrote that article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and sub-section I (i) of Section 8 of the PCP Ordinance, 2002 calls for freedom of press to be preserved.
Under sub-section-II of Section 8 of the PCP Ordinance, it is the PCP’s statutory obligation to “act as a shield to freedom of press or against any sort of interference in the proper functioning of the press, by any person, party or organization etc,” hence PCP has the mandate to protect freedom of expression and shield journalists against all threats. “Through this letter, therefore, I intend to draw your attention towards the grave security environment being faced by the journalist community in Balochistan,” he said.
He mentioned that the province had been in the grip of severe law and order situation in recent years and all segments of society were suffering and journalistic fraternity had no exception. In fact, journalists working in Balochistan face a double edged sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. On one hand, they are under the threat of non-state actors; resistance fighters, disgruntled elements as you may call, who want journalists to present and promote their point of view; while on the other hand they are being allegedly grilled by the law enforcement agencies to refrain from giving coverage to the non-state actors. This situation has made it a daunting task for journalists to discharge their professional responsibilities in a befitting manner.
He said in order to assess the scale of damage done to journalists in Balochistan, Press Council of Pakistan is sending a three-member Fact Finding Committee headed by Senator (R) Syed Faseih Iqbal, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Zamana and The Balochistan Times Quetta.
The Committee will also comprise of Bachal Laghari, Bureau Chief Daily Mehran and Salim Shahid, President Quetta Press Club.
The Committee will meet representatives of journalistic bodies, editors, publishers, government authorities, representatives of law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders and then present its report with recommendations for improvement of working environment for journalists in the province.
He requested that all possible assistance may be extended to the Committee for accomplishment of its assigned tasks. I would also request you to personally look into the crimes against journalists so as to ensure that adequate legal action is taken against all those who harass, assault, threaten or even kill the journalists. It would be desirable if PCP is intimated about the progress in this regard, he said.