RMNP World Press Freedom Day Seminar

Media Freedom for a Better Future

Union Council Hall, Chanigoth

Near National Highway, Rural Pakistan

May3, 2014

1The Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) has expressed grave concern over the pathetic condition of journalists safety in Pakistan where media is passing through the worst time of its 67 years history. Journalists, TV anchors, media houses and media workers are under a constant threat of militants, intelligence agencies, religious extremists, land mafia, feudal leaders, ethnic groups, corrupt politicians and officials. World Press Freedom day seminar entitled” Media Freedom for a Better Future” was organized by the Rural Media Network Pakistan in collaboration with National Press Union and Daily Nawa-I-AhmedpurSharqia in the premises of Union Council Chanigoth brought more than one hundred journalists from two districts of RahimyarKhan and Bahawalpur along with academics, press freedom advocates, regional political leaders and civil society activists. Punjab Minister for Cooperatives Malik Muhammad Iqbal Channar was the chief guest in the concluding session while Professor Dr Sajjad Paracha was the key-note speaker. President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar presented annual press freedom report while Syed Tanveer ulHassan Bukhari acted asmoderator.

Journalists, press freedom advocates discussed the prevailing press freedom situation in Pakistan and observed that despite the much publicized announcement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that his government is setting up a media commission for safety and security of journalists in Pakistan, a well reputed anchor person was seriously injured in an assassination attempt on April 19, 2014.Hamid Mir, 48 was attacked while he was on way from airport to his office in port city of Karachi, the media hub of Pakistan. He got six bullets in lower abdomen thighs and knee. Mir presents a regular live talk show “Capital Talk” on Geo News. His show usually covers sensitive political issues which irk all powerful establishment of the country. This was second attempt to take his life. Last year an explosive device was planted in his car but it was discovered well before exploding. He had threats from different terrorist groups. Sometime before he alleged that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) the main spy agency of Pakistan, also wants to kill him as he was taking up the issue of missing persons in Balochistan. He had informed his family, friends and his employers about these threats.


Participants expressed their apprehensions that   there is complete silence and no further action has been taken in this regard even after the promise made by the Prime Minister. Intimidations and threats to journalists from different groups are continued and media houses have asked their staff not to be harsh while criticizing militant and extremist groups.

Additional secretary general National Press Union Tariq Khan Abbasi said that Sharif had assured in his meeting with head of the US based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) last month that “I want to make Pakistan a journalist friendly country where not only national but international media should feel safe and respected.” Government has yet to decide which practical measures will be taken in future for safety and security of journalists in a country where its own writ is vanishing rapidly, he stated.

It was also informed in closed session that this year there has already been an attack on soft spoken Raza Rumi of Express News channel in which his young driver Muhammad Mustafa was killed. Terrorists planted a bomb outside the house of the Express TV Peshawar Bureau Chief Jamshed Bhagwan. In January this year Bhagwan’s three colleagues were killed when their broadcasting van was targeted by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Militants gave death threats to political analyst Imtiaz Alam. A senior journalist Ansar Abbasi also received threatening emails.


Media is under grave threats. One militant organization dictates media houses that their news should be given as ‘Breaking News’ using ‘Red” bumper as they know its of alarming optic value. In a state of helplessness the Editor of Express Tribune issued a circular to its employees not to be harsh in their criticism on militants and their political associates like JI and PTI. In another case one of the Express TV anchors had assured TTP spokesman that they would be careful in future while reporting or discussing them. These actions show helplessness of our media.


Though it is said that the media is all powerful it is too weak to defend itself against physical violent attacks. A major media group used some journalists who have good ties with the Jihadi groups to arrange a truce with them. Otherwise, they had open threats to blow up their offices; it was disclosed in closed session.

In this hopeless situation participants hope that government will take some urgent measures to secure the media and journalists.

President Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP) Ehsan Ahmed Sehar declared in clear terms that RMNP will vehemently oppose any action to close any channel. He presented annual press freedom report in Urdu language and said that eight journalists and four media workers have been killed in the line of duty since Nawaz Sharif came into power last year. He outlined his concerns for the members of media in Pakistan making a number of recommendations for the future. President RMNP highlighted the significant dangers facing journalists in different areas of the country, referring to killing of 15 journalists and four media workers during last sixteen months and demanded an end to the impunity which continues to abound in Pakistan. President RMNP expressed his solidarity with Hamid Mir,Raza Romi and all other journalists who were attacked recently. He also condemned threats given to Imtiaz Alam and Ansar Abbasi besides the arrest of local journalist Suhail Khan in Bahawalnagar.He mentioned the fact that Pakistan has been identified as one of the focus countries for the UN’s Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, a decision which was welcomed by all participants. President RMNP stated that though Pakistan’s media is urban oriented but during last decade out of killed journalists, majority belong from small towns and rural areas.


Keynote speaker Professor Dr Sajjad Ahmed Paracha of Media Studies Islamia University Bahawalpur in his key note address said that the right and duty of the media in democratic society is to serve as a check on government. The media was to keep officers of the state from abusing or exceeding their authority. It was to be the watchdog over the working of democracy, ever vigilant to spot and expose any arbitrary or authoritarian practice. And to fulfill this function adequately, the media had to be completely free from government control or domination by those elements which is to guard against. Because liberalism was forced to struggle for several centuries against authoritarianism, it considered the established government its greatest enemy.

Government authority, however, could be made to serve the interests of liberalism if strong and effective checks on its use could be found. Media together with other institutions such as judiciary, opposition parties and civil society could fulfill their function. The 20th century, however, brought a gradual shift away from pure libertarianism to the social responsibility theory of media.


He further sated that in Pakistan, independent media are essential for protecting and ensuring fundamental rights. However the media are often complicit in covering up human rights abuses by governments and social groups, he observed. He stated that media should promote more awareness among the masses regarding their rights and concomitant responsibilities. He highlighted the role of social, electronic and print media in Pakistan and termed Pakistan print media as mature. Professor Dr Sajjad Ahmed Paracha suggested that the higher education institutions should be strengthened so they become fully capable to prepare such media professionals who could fulfill their responsibly to cope the challenges of ensuring fundamental rights and free but responsible media in Pakistan.

Punjab Minister for Cooperatives Malik Muhammad Iqbal Channar while addressing the seminar said that PML(N) government believes in the freedom of press and would provide safety cover to them so they could perform their duties in peaceful environment.

Provincial minister underlined the need of responsible journalism and paid rich tributes to Pak armed forces for their services which they were rendering in the defence of our mother land. He stated that media should play its key role in strengthening the national institutions and should foil the nefarious designs of our enemies. Punjab Minister said the PML(N) government came into power due to its transparent record of past five year rule of Shahbaz Sharif in the biggest province of the country .He lauded the positive role of media for highlighting the issues of downtrodden and building good image of PML(N) democratic governance. Malik Iqbal Channar told the media men hailing from Bahawalpur and RahimyarKhan districts that PML(N) government would welcome the positive criticism so we have no intention to impose ban on media in future.

Earlier PML(N) leader & Ex Vice Chairman district Council RahimYarKhan Malik Junaid Aslam Naich, District President PML(QA) Bahawalpur Syed Salahuddin Ahmed Jeelani,Ex-Chairman District Council Bahawalpur Syed Mehmood Akbar Rizvi,PPP leader Muhammad Akram,PTI leader Jam Saadat Abbas , Bahawalur province movement leader Jam Muhammad Ali and journalists Mazhar Raheed,Shahid Bashir,Tariq Khan Abbasi,Arbi Abbasi addressed the seminar while RMNP tehsil coordinator Muhammad Salman Farooqi read the message of Director General UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova while Muhammad Sajjad presented Urdu translation of DCMF message. Similarly, WAN -IFRA, CJA, IPI and other messages were also distributed among participants.


In the concluding session, Punjab Minister Iqbal Channar gave RMNP press freedom cash training award to Nasi Hameed while Professor Dr Sajjad Paracha presented RMNP cash press freedom training award to Nauman Masood Khan.

Closed session was held after dinner at 9.30 PM and continued up to 11.30 PM which adopted 14 recommendations:

RMNP seminar unanimously recommends:

  1. The government should take immediate steps to ensure safety of journalists and security of media houses; should not compromise on freedom of expression and media while talking with any group at the name of peace as this issue is directly related with the survival of our country; should immediately arrest the criminals behind attacks on media persons.
  1. The newspapers and private TV channel owners must be taken onboard for security and safety of journalists and for this purpose the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and other media associations must be taken into confidence.
  2. Special workshops on safety and security for journalists working in rural areas should be planned in small towns and international media organizations should focus on such areas which are more vulnerable.
  3. National and regional newspapers and TV channels should form unity. If a reporter or correspondent of one channel is attacked or killed, other channels should mention his and his organization’s name while broadcasting the news and avoid indulging in blame game;
  4. Militant, extremist organizations and political parties should stop harassing media for the coverage of their news;
  5. International journalists’ organizations should be requested to write letters to the media houses to provide security to their staffers working in sensitive areas;
  6. Coordination should be improved between news room and field teams as well as with correspondents and contributors on safety and security issues, and anchors avoid pressing reporters for details which may put their lives in dangers;
  7. A legal aid mechanism should be evolved and safety fund created for the families of journalists killed in terrorist attacks;
  8. A special public prosecutor should be appointed to exclusively take up and pursue cases of attacks on media and media workers to promote a culture of justice and accountability;
  9. All media houses must formulate standard operating procedures (SOPs) for journalists;
  10. An Eminent Group of Journalists should be set up to serve as mediation platform to forge consensus between media and the government authorities on the issue of safety; representation of rural areas be given in the Pakistan Coalition of Media Safety (PCOMS)
  11. Media houses should help their staffers to change work place if necessary for their security;
  12. The owners of newspapers and TV channels should provide complete insurance cover to their correspondents working in sensitive areas;
  13. A dependable mechanism must be evolved to identify the dangers and collect the information in rural areas to alert the journalists. RMNP has stressed again and again on this point.


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