ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi is expected to sign the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021 — aimed at protecting journalists and media professionals — on Wednesday (tomorrow).
Tabled by a ruling MP in May, the National Assembly and Senate have passed the legislation on November 8 and November 19, respectively.
The bill is meant to promote, protect and effectively ensure the independence, impartiality, safety and freedom of expression of journalists and media professionals.
The law would offer journalists and media professionals the right to carry out their work in conflict-hit areas within the country, without threat, intimidation, harassment or fear of persecution or targeting.
Under the bill, the government would take all possible steps to protect journalists and media professionals from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of any person, institution (private or public) or authority.
The bill authorises the government to establish a commission that will inquire into complaints against threats or acts of torture, killing, violent attacks, forced disappearance, and arbitrary arrests.
The reports of the commission would be laid before parliament through the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR).
It’d also enable active investigation, prosecution and punishing of the acts of violence and any threats to journalists, ensuring the protection of their lives.
According to the statement of objects and reasons, the protection and promotion of rights of journalists and media professionals are central to safeguarding the right to freedom of expression.
In fact, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has emphasized: “Work of a free, independent and impartial press constitutes one of the basic foundations of a democratic society.”
There is, therefore, an urgent need to ensure accountability for all forms of threats, coercion, and violence against journalists and media professionals.
As per the bill, the government shall ensure that every journalist and media professional’s right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the Constitution, is safeguarded and that no such individual is subjected to ill-treatment.
No person or institution, whether private or public, shall engage in any acts that violate the right to life and security of any journalist or media professional.
All journalists and media professionals must also respect the rights or reputations of others and not produce material that advocates national, racial, ethnic, religious, sectarian, linguistic, cultural, or gender-based hatred which may constitute an incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.
They also must not engage in the dissemination of material known by such an individual to be false or untrue, it says.