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A Legal Sword To Protect Journalists: A look into bill for protection of journalists of Pakistan

It’s time to worry about the safety of those who go out of their way to give news.

International Federation of Journalists easily listed Pakistan amongst the top five deadliest countries for journalists in the world. However, things are expected to change considering the presentation of two bills for the welfare and protection of journalists in the National Assembly and Sindh Assembly.

The recent unfortunate incidents with a few journalists presents an unsafe picture where journalist and blogger Asad Ali Toor was attacked at his home by unidentified men, Fareed Khan, a photographer in Karachi was arrested and a team member of a private television channel was manhandled.

Protecting the men and women who tell the truth, isn’t on a priority list for Pakistan’s legislators. Coming back to the bill, let’s hear out some details.

The two bills are titled as ‘The Protection of Journalists and Media Professional Act’ and ‘The Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act’.

The Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Act requires setting up an Independent Commission to investigate crimes against journalists physically and on digital spaces.

The commission will be headed by a retired High Court or Supreme Court judge with relevant knowledge and experience. Chief Minister will decide the salaries, allowances and terms and conditions of the Chairperson after consultating with other members of the Commission who will also be journalists from different bodies such as APNS, CPNA, PBA, PFUJ and APNEC.

Within 14 days, the required action will be recommended against the involved. The government can also be directed to conclude trial within 90 days. The commission can summon relevant records during probe.

The bill also ensures anonymity of journalists and no office can force them otherwise. It also gives a definition of who can we call a media practitioners expanding to all support and technical staff.

There are roughly 50,000 media practitioners in Pakistan, including part time and full time journalists.

Last 74 years have not seen many laws to protect media workers which justifies praise for the step by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government and by the Pakistan Peoples Party government.

Media persons face harassment in many forms, from being murdered, kidnapped, to being beaten and humiliated. It also includes online and offline harassment against female journalists.

It’s time for other provinces to join the campaign and protect their media practitioners so they can keep telling the truth.

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