March 31, 2021
ISLAMABAD—Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) has submitted its 19-point charter of demands to the federal government, ahead of its already announced long march this month from Quetta to Islamabad.
The charter urges the federal and provincial governments to take urgent concrete measures for the revival of the media industry and for safeguarding journalists’ and media workers’ rights, who face retrenchments, layoffs, financial hardships, and threats to life and property. They are also victims of the coronavirus being frontline workers.
The charter of demands says that freedom of the press, speech, and expression in the country has been compromised due to authoritarian tactics, arm twisting, and the use of draconian laws to suppress media and voices.
President PFUJ Shahzada Zulfiqar in his statement said: “We are faced with a situation where freedom of expression faces threat and journalists’ safety is challenged by physical and virtual attacks. The industry is also in a financial crisis.”
PFUJ has called for an immediate meeting of all the stakeholders so that this crucial and important industry could be saved from further damage. “The federal government should immediately call and arrange this meeting among owners, PFUJ, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and representatives of information departments of all the provinces, including Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to chalk out a comprehensive consensus plan to solve the financial crisis in the industry.”
The charter urges the federal and provincial governments to direct owners of media houses to immediately halt the process of uncalled for retrenchments, layoffs, pay cuts, denial of salaries and dues to journalists and media workers who are the worst victim of current ill-conceived and ill-designed policies for the media industry which seems to be designed for controlling media and suppressing voices. “Even the regional newspapers of different languages have been made victim of the policies of federal and provincial governments through denial of advertisement quota,” the PFUJ president said.
It calls for immediate restoration of advertisement quota of regional press in all the four provinces and Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, besides immediate implementation of the 8th Wage Board Award announced in 2019. “The government should immediately create effective mechanisms for the implementation of the 8th Wage Board Award, including making government advertisements conditional with its implementation. Similar service structures for electronic and digital media should be created and implemented across all media categories besides a balanced and merit-based advertisement policy.”
The charter of demands deals with all the issues confronting the media—from safety and security of the journalists and media workers, demands for arresting criminals and killers of journalists, reopening of cases of US journalist Danial Pearl, and Geo News reporter Wali Khan Baber. It calls for directing police, FC, and other law enforcement agencies working in all provinces, AJK, and GB to provide safety and security to life and property of journalists and media workers which is the responsibility of the state and state functionaries.
Shahzada Zulfiqar called for ensuring press freedom and freedom of speech and expression and urgent revisiting of all the laws, rules, and regulations being misused for media-gagging and intimidating journalists and media workers. “We demand revisiting Article 19 of the constitution which provides unwanted restrictions on media and Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA 2016) with the consultation of stakeholders,” he said.
The 19 point charter demanded that since Journalists and media workers have worked day and night since the arrival of COVID-19 as frontline workers and many workers lost their lives, therefore, journalists should be declared a priority group for receiving corona vaccines.
“Journalists and media workers who have been victims of terrorism, crime, and coronavirus should be paid compensation of Rs 20 lac per person/family, besides education, health cover, soft loans, and comprehensive financial package as announced for workers of other industrial sectors.”
PFUJ reiterated that it considers itself as the guardian of press freedom and free speech in Pakistan and will never compromise on its principled stand. “We will continue our struggle till the achievement of this goal. PFUJ is also committed to the safety and security of the journalists and media workers and will take an uncompromised stand for the community.”
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