ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Wednesday endorsed the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021, which was passed by parliament last month to safeguard the rights of the media community in the country.
The bill requires the government to take all possible measures to protect journalists and media professionals from all forms of harassment, abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of any individual, institution or authority.
It also authorizes the government to establish a commission to look into complaints against threats, acts of torture, killings, violent attacks, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.
“I am feeling happy to sign this Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021, which was drafted through consensus of all stakeholders after a lot of hard work,” the president said during the signing ceremony at the Presidency in Islamabad.
He maintained there was uniformity of opinion regarding the rights of journalists, adding that the new law had increased the responsibility of the government and media owners in the country.
Alvi said the bill had eight points that covered different aspects of the media industry to ensure the protection of journalists.
“It’s third act of part two provides the right to life and protection. It is essential for journalists because they work with neutrality despite facing acute dangers,” he said while noting that Article 4 was about the right to privacy and source nondisclosure “which remained a big issue in the past.”
“There is protection against abusive, violent and intolerant behavior,” he continued. “There is also a clause about an independent media commission which is very essential.”
The president said while the society had the responsibility to demonstrate tolerance toward journalists trying to perform their duties, the media community should also report developments objectively and within the right context.
The country’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain described the legislation as a leap forward while hoping it would provide all the rights to Pakistani journalists which were available to media communities in developed states.
“The media enjoys freedom in Pakistan,” he said. “The government stands by working journalists and will act to provide them employment protection.”
Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari said the new law defined the term “media professional” and would let the authorities deliberate on journalist welfare schemes.
“It is now a legal obligation of media owners to provide insurance and training to media professionals,” she said.
Mazari informed that women would also be given representation in the commission to be formed under the Act.
“An independent commission will be formed for the first time in the country which will address the complaints of journalists,” she added.
A representative of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Pervaiz Shaukat welcomed the new law, though he emphasized its implementation.
“We talked to the information minister that the government should ensure its implementation,” he told Arab News. “Otherwise, this will become useless like many other laws.”