On the occasion of 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, allow me to extend my warmest regards on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) to the Rural Media Network Pakistan, and to congratulate you for yet another year of excellent work defending press freedom and promoting the safety of journalists.wanandrw

This message comes on the back of disturbing news that reached us at the end of April, with WAN-IFRA releasing its latest protest letter to the Pakistani authorities calling for a swift investigation into the attack on journalist Hamid Mir.

WAN-IFRA is seriously concerned that the attack on Mr. Mir may be related to his reporting. Mr. Mir had told his family and colleagues, as well as government and army officials, that members of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) were planning to “eliminate” him. The government has promised to establish a special committee of inquiry led by three judges to investigate the attempted murder, and we urge them to honour this pledge.

This latest attack on press freedom in Pakistan came just weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to do more to protect journalists. The RMNP knows better than most the terrible cost behind statistics that reveal five journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2013, and the more than 50 who have died since the early 1990s. WAN-IFRA is appalled that most murders remain unresolved.

That is why we stand firmly behind the United Nations Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, and actively encourage all of our members to engage with the strategy. It is surely the best opportunity to bring together all of those who have an interest in protecting the essential role of the media, from governments down.

Our own 3 May focus this year has been on journalists imprisoned for their work. Our website www.worldpressfreedomday.orggives a vivid picture of just some ofthe more than 200 journalists who werepersecuted simply for doing their job in 2013. We draw particular attention to our 2014 Golden Pen of Freedom laureate, Ethiopian journalistEskinderNega. Sentenced to 18 years on terrorism related charges, we call for his immediate release.

Common themes that bridge every continent: we saw with our recent press freedom mission to the United Kingdom that even in the most established of democracies, press freedom cannot be taken for granted. Accusations levelled against the Guardian newspaper of endangering national security over its reporting of the Edward Snowden affair, as well as changes to press regulation have raised anxieties globally, and particularly in Pakistan. If the “mother of all parliaments” is perceived to be meddling in the affairs of a free press, what hope is there for governments who will likely use the British example to justify their own desires to curtail press freedom?

It is for this reason that on 3 May we stand stronger together, united in the defence and promotion of press freedom and our common belief in unfettered freedom for all. May everyday, be 3 May.

With very best regards,
Andrew Heslop
Director, Press Freedom
WAN-IFRA

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