Strong call for a media safety law in Pakistan
“The security of journalists is a precondition for the security of democracy”. This sentiment noted by senior journalist, Mr Hamid Mir, who himself survived an assassination attempt was shared by the participants in the 2nd International Conference on Combating Impunity and Securing Safety of Media Workers and Journalists which took place in Islamabad, Pakistan on 27 and 28 January 2015.
The conference, organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and Pakistan Coalitions on Media Safety (PCOMS), was attended by more than 70 international and local representatives consisting of media practitioners, lawyers, political leaders, and human rights activist.
The Minister of Information and Broadcast of Pakistan, Mr Pervaiz Rasheed, Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan, Mr Jesper Møller Sørensen, Ambassador of Norway to Pakistan Mr Leif Larsen, and Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, Mr Janan Mosazai opened the conference
The participants of the conference strongly supported the call for better protection for journalists and media workers especially through the adoption a comprehensive media safety law that will help create a safe environment for the media to flourish, to improve the safety of media practitioners, and also the creation of a special prosecutor for crimes against the media.
Mr Altzaz Ahsan, veteran barrister, activist, and constitutional theorist, argued that journalism is a special field where the specificities of the work expose the journalists, media houses, and subjects of the work to certain danger. This warrants a special law dedicated to the issue. Furthermore, substantive responsibility to better protect journalists and media workers has to be placed on the government and that media houses should provide at least some security measures for their journalists
UNESCO’s Programme Specialist from the Freedom of Expression Section, Mr Ming-Kuok LIM was on hand to address the role of the United Nations, specifically UNESCO, in promoting safety of journalists especially within the framework of UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and other international instruments. He noted that safety of journalists is a complex problem and that it takes the cooperation of all stakeholders to tackle the issue. According to the UNESCO Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity there were 48 journalists killed between 2006-2013 which took place in Pakistan.