ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Senator Farhatullah Babar has urged the media persons to avail the two recent opportunities that opened up last week in the Senate to build a legislative framework for their protection and safety and to end the impunity with which they are attacked by the state and non-state actors.

Addressing a seminar on safety of journalists organised by the Freedom Network here, he said that the initiative included rejection of the draft Protection of Journalists Bill by the Senate’s Information Committee for not addressing the central issue of safety and deciding to make another one in consultation with all stakeholders in line with the UN principles and best universal practices.

Second, the investigations entrusted to the Interior Committee in the brutal attack recently on The News reporter Ahmad Noorani and other journalists in the past. Senator Farhatullah said that the professional media bodies must make their voice heard at these two forums. He said that the parliament may have failed in making legislating for across the board accountability of all.

It must not fail in making legislation for the protection of media persons, he said, adding that it would be a disaster if this parliamentary committee met the fate of the committee on accountability law. He said that the legal framework for the protection of the media persons should be based on recognition of four principles.

One, that ending impunity of crimes against them and prosecution of cases through special public prosecutor is the state responsibility. Two, the media houses are responsible for special insurance for working in conflict zones, training of media persons before sending them to the conflict zones and not forcing part-timers in FATA and Balochistan to dangers.

Three, the creation of the special safety and protection fund for the rehabilitation of the media persons and their families who come to harm in conflict zones. And four, attacks on journalists be properly cataloged and reports of investigations in the attack on them be made public.

Senator Farhatullah said that the law has been amended and now inquiry commissions can publish their reports without seeking approval of the government. He said that this exposure and transparency would help fight impunity. He also asked the media persons to have basic knowledge of working in a hostile environment.

He said that it was most disturbing that no record was available of the judicial inquiry carried out in the murder of tribal journalist Hayataullah over a decade ago and called for pursuing investigations into the matter. It is a challenge to legislate protection of the journalists in a broken criminal justice system. –Courtesy Pakistan Today

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