Monday , 15 October 2018

[21:16, 5/2/2018] Asghar Ch: On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2018, political leaders, journalists adopt ‘Islamabad Declaration’ reaffirming their commitment to free media Islamabad, 2 May 2018: In a roundtable hosted by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club (NPC), participants adopted a resolution reaffirming their resolve to uphold the freedom of media and expression in Pakistan and ensure the safety of Pakistani journalists. The roundtable discussion was held on Wednesday at the National Press Club to commemorate the 2018 World Press Freedom Day. Participants, who included journalists and civil society representatives, pledged their support to the 10-point ‘Islamabad Declaration’. Political leaders representing the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) also supported the resolution on behalf of their parties. The declaration condemned all incidents of covert and overt threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists. It also condemned the crackdown on digital expression of journalists and political workers through direct and indirect means, and calls for reforms in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. The impunity in cases of violence against journalists and arbitrary censorship of media were also condemned in the statement. The discussion participants also affirmed their commitment to establish a secure digital environment for the free expression of journalists, political workers, activists and citizens. All political leaders, who attended the discussion, supported press freedom but also called for responsible reporting and accountability for fake news. PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bukhari said his party supports the Islamabad Declaration on press freedom and journalist safety. “A democracy cannot function without a free press,” Mr. Bokhari said. “Media (freedoms) are essential to the creation of public opinion.” However, Mr. Bokhari said there is also a great responsibility on the press to report with accuracy and integrity. He said the journalists should be held accountable for their reporting just as politicians should be held accountable for their conduct. Former Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP said in recent years a new threat has emerged against Pakistani journalists. “This new threat is from invisible actors,” Mr. Babar said. “This is more potent and dangerous than any other threat to journalists, even more than threats from state and non-state actors.” He said the journalist-community’s suggestions have been included in a draft bill on journalist safety and journalists should push the government for passage of the bill. Mr. Babar said the state should realise the dangers posed by the suppression of dissent and move to resolve the grievances of its citizens. PTI Information Secretary Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said perhaps no one could disagree with the Islamabad Declaration. He said his

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