Updated: September 26, 2020 2:50:30 pm
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan led Cabinet has failed to take up the serious issue of deadly attacks on journalists and media persons in the country in any of its first 62 meetings held between September 1, 2018 and January 30, 2020, a media report said on Saturday.
In a statement issued on Friday by Freedom Network –a local media and development sector watchdog — said it got the information from the government after it filed a request to know if the Cabinet had ever discussed the issue of attacks on journalists in its meeting, the Dawn newspaper reported.
“Despite multiple attacks targeting journalists and media persons, the federal cabinet did not take up the issue in any of its first 62 meetings that were held between September 1, 2018 and January 30, 2020,” the report said.
The media watchdog said that between September 1, 2018 and January 30, 2020, seven journalists and a blogger were murdered, six media persons were kidnapped and 15 were nominated in different legal cases.
Additionally, the Freedom Network said, 135 “violations” against media persons were reported.
Freedom Network had filed a request with the government in February of this year “to seek official information on how many times the issue of the growing number of murders, attacks and intimidation of journalists was taken up by the Cabinet”.
The government provided the information last month.
“A total of 62 meetings of the federal cabinet were held during the period of 1 September 2018 to 30 January 2020. The subject issues of safety of journalists and impunity of crimes against the media was not on the agenda during the time-interval under discussion,” Cabinet Division’s Section Officer Jamil Ahmed informed the Freedom Network through the Federal Information Commission.
Iqbal Khattak , the media watchdog’s Executive Director, while commenting on the information, said it was “alarming that the highest governance forum in the country remained oblivious to the aggravated levels of violence against journalists and other information practitioners, including murders and attacks”.
This official disregard to violence against the media and its practitioners is a direct contributor to the high levels of impunity that attackers and intimidators enjoy in Pakistan, putting the country in the list of top 10 most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism, the media watchdog said.
He urged Prime Minister Khan to “urgently materialise his promise” to table a bill ensuring the safety of journalists and information practitioners.
The press statement mentioned that the bill has been drafted by the government but has been “pending for a long time now”.
The watchdog recalled that Pakistan had endorsed the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Issues of Impunity in October 2013, when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was in power.
“This plan includes a commitment to introduce a special law on safety of journalists,” the statement said.
The statement by the Freedom Network comes on the same day when Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari refuted reports that the Federal Investigation Agency had registered cases against journalists and rights activists under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.
“FIA examines all complaints but no FIR has been registered and FIA can’t register a report under PECA without following the specified legal procedure,” the minister said in a tweet, adding that if anyone had “contrary evidence in terms of FIRs”, they should inform her so that she can follow up.
Mazari was responding to a tweet posted on Thursday by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) which said it was “alarmed” by reports that cases against “49 journalists and social media activists” had been registered by the FIA under PECA, the report said.
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