National Assembly Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Friday decided to move a privilege motion against Sindh and Punjab police for providing wrong data regarding attacks on journalists in their respective provinces. A sub-committee was also constituted to look into the issues pertaining to attacks on media persons, compensation to families of killed journalists and creation of a code of conduct to provide safer environment to media people. Naeema Kishwar Khan is nominated as convenor of the sub-committee.
Chairperson of the committee Marvi Memon asked Marriyum Aurangzeb, member of the committee, to draft a privilege motion on behalf of the committee against Sindh and Punjab police officials for not providing data on journalists killed in the current session of the National Assembly and giving poor briefing to the committee. Memon said attacks on media persons were unfortunate and every effort should be made to ensure safety of the journalists, especially for those who were working in conflict zones.
“Pakistan’s ranking on global index regarding journalists’ safety stands at 158. We need to improve this ranking by working hard and devising viable mechanism for safety of the media persons,” she said. She said she was disappointed over response of the provinces to a request seeking number of attacks on journalists and media organisations in their respective territories.
Elaborating on difficulties faced by the media persons, International Federation of Journalists’ representative Pakistan Pervaiz Shaukat said Pakistan had been declared as one of the most dangerous countries on earth for journalists. “Each time we are asked for suggestions and recommendations to improve working conditions for the journalists and each time these suggestions are dumped by the committees,” he complained.
He suggested that families of the victim journalists should also be compensated the way families of the soldiers were compensated. The previous government had agreed for Rs 1.5 million for each victim family of journalists, but the amount was never paid. “If journalists put their pen and cameras down, no political party (of Pakistan) and even democratic institutions will be able to survive,” he said.
He said if the federal government paid Rs 10 million premium, then all journalists across the country could be insured. Masood Hamid, Secretary General of All Pakistan Newspapers Society, said journalists working in the conflict zone were most vulnerable to terror attacks and pressure from militants and government security forces.
“Around one third of Fata journalists have either migrated to other parts of the country or left the profession owing to threats,” he revealed. The impunity enjoyed by those who were targeting media persons was hampering the freedom of expression, he said, adding that not a single culprit involved in journalists killing was arrested or prosecuted since 2003.
He said a judicial commission probing murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad had recommended a separate ombudsman to entertain complaints of the journalists, but it had not been established so far. Tahir A Khan, executive member of Pakistan Broadcasters Association, informed the committee members about a list of 16 journalists facing threats from different quarters. “The government should provide security to these journalists before something untoward happens to them,” he said.
Dr Jabbar Khattak, Secretary General of Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editor (CPNE), said journalists in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were sandwiched between militants and government security forces. He said journalists were more vulnerable to threats from different quarters in absence of a law on easy access to information. “The situation can improve if the government enacts the easy access to information law,” he said. Earlier, police representatives from Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan briefed the committee members about the number of journalists killed and measures being taken for security of the media persons in their respective provinces.