World Press Freedom Day Seminar Ahmed Pur East, Rural Pakistan May 3,2012

AhmedpurEast.May 3 (Rural Pakistan) Safety of journalists must be the top priority for media organizations as well as state institutions in order to ensure the freedom of media in Pakistan, concluded speakers at World Press Freedom Day seminar organised by the Rural Media Network Pakistan  in collaboration with UNESCO here last night. The speakers at the seminar, titled ” New Voices: Media Freedom Helping To Transform Societies”. warned that in  an ever new competitive  media industry ,correspondents and photographers must remain ever cautious  and avoid taking undue risks because no story was worth than life. Key- note Speaker  BBC correspondent Wusat Ullah khan told the audience that in a rapidly changing world of  mobile communication & multimedia speed , flow of information had become flood of information, its a blessing but also a challenge for modern media as how to find a real news out of the piles of unsorted information’s Wusat said that rapid expansion of technology & fast changing global & regional security environment transformed the media profession as well. During the last 20 years or so security issues of media persons have increased many folds. Today not only governments but private groups also creating hurdles in the way of the free & objective flow of information, he stated.Wusat emphasized  the need to establish a comprehensive information structure, right to know mechanism & to make & implement a self volunteered code of  ethics for the media by the media. He further said that freedom of media is directly related not only with freedom of speech but freedom after speech as well. Unless these issues solved, nothing related to freedom of media could be settled or fully realised, he observed. The seminar brought more than  one hundred fifty journalists, civil society activists, academics, human rights activists and regional leaders of main stream political parties. BBC Senior Programme Producer Wusuat Ullah Khan , Content Editor Mediators Group of Companies Karachi Khalid Saeed,journalists Salman  Farooqi,Shabbir Ahmed Qureshi,Azhar Danish,Mazhar Rasheed,Shahid Bashir, trader leader Mehar Abdul Rehman,District President PML(QA) Syed Salahuddin Ahmed Jeelani,District Health Assistant to Chief Minister Punjab & PML(N) leader Qazi Adnan Farid,Central Additional Secretary General Bahawalpur National Awami Party (BNAP) Mian RafaturRehman Rehmani,Vice President PPP South Punjab Hassan Askari Sheikh and District Information Officer Bahawalpur Nouman Masood Khan shared their thoughts on the threats facing journalists in Pakistan and  what  the government was doing and could do to mitigate those. President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar presented annual press freedom report, while the joint message of UN Secretary General was read in the seminar by Salman Farooqi . A film of World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers was also screened on this occasion besides the distribution of Urdu translation of the messages of Executive Director International Press Institute, General Director Doha Centre for Media Freedom, International President Commonwealth Journalists Association  and Former Chief Executive Officer WAN-IFRA  Mr Christoph Riess.


Nothing will change unless all media associations work together to improve standard of journalism in Pakistan, cautioned President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar,adding that Pakistan’s leading journalists and editors associations PFUJ and CPNE are hesitant when it comes to reform.


Khalid Saeed said that proper training for journalists operating in hostile environment could contribute to minimizing risks and facilitate them in doing their work more effectively and in   safe manner. He noted that quest for breaking news was a major reason for the death of media practitioners who lost their lives in the performance of duty. To ensure the safety of journalists, he urged that media organizations should only send experienced and trained journalists to cover conflict zones.

National Press Union Acting President Shabbir Ahmed Qureshi said that ethical and unbiased reporting and professional journalism could help reduce risks for journalists but added that in conflict the longevity of journalists depends in no small part on how much value is attached to a journalist’s life, by the journalist himself as well as by media institutions and the state.


The speakers called impunity for killing journalists in Pakistan a particular area of concern. They expressed shock at the fact that the 84 journalists killed in Pakistan since 2000, the killers of only one had been brought to justice. They said that while the state had the principal obligation to protect all individuals in its jurisdiction, there was a specific need to protect journalists for no particular reason other than the fact that without their work credible information on human rights and other critical areas would not simply be available. The speakers said that state can not absolve itself of its primary responsibilities, by blaming murder of journalists on war on terror and must show its commitment to media freedoms by protecting journalists, while noting that several journalists killed in Pakistan in recent years had been targeted outside the conflict zones and the perpetrators in those killing had also enjoyed impunity to the point that it amount to virtual immunity. They emphasized that the media institutions must not only train, sensitize and give the necessary gadgets to journalists but must also abstain from pressurising them in any manner to run personal risks to gather information. In all circumustances,the reporter on the ground must be the final judge of severity  of risks and his opinion must be respected. The said  that in the absence of state protection and lack of institutional support, journalists must take greater responsibility for looking after themselves, even as they seek exclusive stories and move closer to the very sources and areas that at times expose them to additional threats.


President RMNP Ehsan Ahmed Sehar said,it is necessary to go beyond ” sketchy investigations” and look into the sort of stories that the journalists killed were working on. That, he said would help to know the motive behind the killings. He asserted that in completive market of today, reporters do compete to get the news first, but the important thing is to get it right. Later on Key-note Speaker BBC Correspondent Wusuat Ullah Khan presented Rs 17,000 cash prizes to four press freedom advocates in the seminar on the behalf of the RMNP. Seminar concluded with a declaration that urged reforms by PFUJ, APNS,CPNE and PBA to make safety of journalists a top priority besides the demand of the appointment of an ombudsman with whom journalists could file their complaints.


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