Pakistan Senate passes key bill aimed at protecting welfare of journalists

Pakistans Parliament on Friday passed a key bill aimed at protecting journalists, amid reports of growing attacks on media professionals in the country. The Government shall ensure that every journalist and media professionals right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the Constitution, is safeguarded, and that no such individual is subjected to ill-treatment, according to Section 3 1 of the bill.


PTI | Islamabad | Updated: 19-11-2021 19:01 IST | Created: 19-11-2021 19:01 IST
Pakistan Senate passes key bill aimed at protecting welfare of journalists
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Pakistan's Parliament on Friday passed a key bill aimed at protecting journalists, amid reports of growing attacks on media professionals in the country. The Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill 2021 was among four other bills endorsed by the Senate or upper house of the bicameral parliament. The others include the National Accountability Amendment Bill 2021, the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the Higher Education Commission (Second Amendment) Bill 2021. Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari presented the media protection bill. “The Government shall ensure that every journalist and media professionals' right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the Constitution, is safeguarded, and that no such individual is subjected to ill-treatment,” according to Section 3 (1) of the bill. Section 4 ensures the right to privacy and non-disclosure of source, while Section 5 guarantees the right of independence of performing professional duties. Section 12, meanwhile, ensures formation of a commission for protection of media professionals and journalists. The bills were passed amid protest by the opposition parties, who are demanding that the Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani send the media protection bill to the respective standing committee for vetting. The development comes after the government managed to get through 33 bills, a record number, including the controversial bill on electronic voting machines (EVMs) and I-voting for the overseas Pakistanis, from the joint sitting of Parliament on Wednesday despite opposition protests. Meanwhile, Mazari congratulated media persons on the passage of the bill. ''Today, a two-year struggle to provide a comprehensive journalist and media professionals protection law, drafted in consultation with journalists' bodies, was finally realised through parliament,'' she said. The minister said that President Arif Alvi will now sign the bill into law. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry called it an expression of the Pakistan government's commitment towards journalistic freedom. ''Congratulations to working journalists. This bill will grant journalists rights that are only given to media professionals in highly developed societies,'' the minister said in a tweet. So far media organisations across Pakistan have not responded to the passage of the bill. The passage of the media protection bill notwithstanding, Pakistan currently sits fourth in the International Federation of Journalists’ list of the ‘most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.’ A fortnight ago, Nazim Jokhio, a Karachi-based video journalist was allegedly murdered for exposing the illegal hunting of the threatened Houbara bustard by visiting Arab dignitaries. Jokhio’s death drew widespread condemnation, with an international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, demanding an independent probe into his death. A report from the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), released last week in conjunction with the UN’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists,” highlighted the “increasingly repressive environment” faced by Pakistani journalists. The report said journalists publishing work online are “often on the receiving end of hate, threats and abuse.” PTI SH VM VM

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