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Media freedom must for democracy: Sharmila

06 May, 2012

KARACHI: Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqi has said that press freedom is necessary for strengthening democracy, so all the stakeholders should play their due role in solving the problems faced by journalists.

"There is dire need to end impunity of crimes against journalists," she said while addressing a discussion programme on the importance of freedom of the press and challenges being faced by journalists in Pakistan, particularly in conflict areas, organised by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) at the -Vicky Zeitlin Media Library here in connection with the World Press Freedom Day.

She said the present elected government respects media freedom, because journalists had given a lot of sacrifices for democracy and rule of law. The adviser said that she would play her due role in solving the problems faced by media men.

Farooqi and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee Member Ashfaq Mangi gave the Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award along with a cheque of one hundred thousand rupees to Anita Saleem Shahzad, the widow of the slain journalist Saleem Shahzad. Children of Saleem Shahzad were also present. It may be noted that PPF on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day announced the annual PPF-Aslam Ali Press Freedom Award-2012 for the slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was murdered on 30 May 2011.

On the occasion, speakers showed grave concern over growing security problems for journalists in Pakistan. They said today Pakistan is considered as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. During last 10 years 42 journalists were killed in the country and 29 of them targeted due to the issues related to discharge their professional responsibilities. Though FIRs of these murders were lodged but saving the case of US-based journalist Daniel Pearl no other case led to conviction. "This shows that those involved in the crimes against journalists in Pakistan enjoy a sort of unannounced impunity."

They said the growing pressure of secret agencies, militant organisations and some political pressure groups had forced the journalists and media organisations to resort to self-censorship. "The working conditions in conflict areas of FATA and Balochistan are very hostile for reporters, forcing journalists of these areas to leave their hometowns and villages and migrate to safer areas."

They said the owners of media houses were not paying heeds toward proper safety and security of their reporters. "The government and media organisations should have to take serious notice of this issue and ensure that all working journalists are properly insured." "There is also need of in-house training programmes for journalists to raise their professional capacities and make them aware about the risks of working in dangerous and conflict areas."

Speakers also criticised the trend of growing commercialisation of media, saying Pakistani media was portraying women as a cheap commodity in their advertisements, which was against their honour and dignity.

This is not only a moral issue but also blatant gender discrimination. Growing content of sensationalism in electronic media should be checked and there should be some code of professional ethics for media people."

At the programme, the heroic services of Syed Saleem Shahzad and other slain Pakistani journalists were lauded. It was observed that Pakistani journalists have always rendered invaluable services for democracy and upholding of law and constitution in the country. They said for a thriving media freedom in country the democratic values should be further strengthened and the culture of tolerance promoted.

Pakistan Press International (PPI), a news agency, chief editor Farooq Mojn, PPF senior coordinator Lala Hassan, Syed Shams of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), senior journalists AH Khanzada, Riaz Suhail, Rehana Afroze of Jammat-e-Islami and others participated in the discussion. They demanded of the government and civil society to take firm steps end impunity of crimes against journalists.

End.

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