Pakistani journalists are playing a vital role in securing freedom of express in the country but at a very higher cost, said panelists at a forum organised on the World Press Freedom Day on Friday.
The forum was organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss this year’s theme titled “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”. Panelists included TV anchor Hamid Mir, senior journalist Muhammad Zia-ud-Din, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Director General Murtaza Solangi, and Ministry of Information Additional Secretary Muhammad Azam.
Mir said the media in Pakistan was not as free as people thought about it. He said journalists face several challenges while performing their duty. “It is a wrong perception that Pakistani journalists began facing hardship in recent years; rather, our seniors fought bravely for the freedom of expression,” he said. “Our seniors laid their lives for the media as several example from the history can be quoted,” Mir said, adding that “Both democratic governments and dictators have acted against the freedom of the media.”
Journalists, civil society activists, students of mass communication, and people from other walks of life participated in this interactive programme.
Both Solagni and Zia-ud-Din urged for the fair media. They emphasised on implementing the code of ethics and responsible reporting. Solangi expressed his concern over the state-run media and its role in the nation building.
Azam said threat to press freedom was a global issue but still the Pakistan government would take every possible step to ensure its freedom. Azam, who was representing the Information Ministry, was asked several questions by panelists and students. “Journalists are facing tough challenges because we are in the state of war,” he said, adding that journalists were killed because of a vast number of reasons.”
The UN supports the freedom of expression as it is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of expression is essential for empowering individuals and building free and democratic societies. A fundamental right on its own, freedom of expression also provides the conditions for protecting and promoting all other human rights.
UNESCO Director Kozue Kay Nagata in her keynote address said the UN supported this day to stress importance of freedom of expression and freedom of diversified opinions in the media. She appreciated Pakistani journalists for their professionalism and commitment. “Pakistani journalists are facing extreme conditions in line of duty,” she said, adding, “The United Nations re-affirms commitment to safeguard freedom of expression.
UN Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala said the UN was strongly committed to coordinating action, raising awareness and supporting Pakistan in upholding international principles and developing legislation for freedom of expression and information.