It’s worse under Imran Khan’s govt today for journalists than it was under Zia’s martial law

Islamabad, June 17, 2021 (PPI-OT):Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chaired a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights in the parliament. The meeting discussed the issue of attacks on journalists and the Protection of Journalists and Media Bill. Journalists including Hamid Mir, Absar Alam, Munizae Jahangir, Asma Shirazi, Asad Toor and Ehtesham Khan attended the meeting at the invitation of Chairman Standing Committee on Human Rights Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Addressing the meeting, Chairman Bilawal said that the committee has summoned journalists who have been attacked or harassed. He said that the entities who shot at Absar Alam were not identified. There was such brutal violence, Hamid Mir was shot many years ago but the Sindh government was not even given CCTV footage of the attack. He said that he still does not know the outcome of the cases regarding the attacks on journalists. It was agreed with the Federal Minister for Human Rights that a sub-committee would be formed on the Journalist Protection Bill. Chairman Bilawal said that if the Journalist Protection Bill is passed without the review of the opposition, the opposition will reject it.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that there are many points in the Sindh Journalist Protection Bill which are not in the said bill of the National Assembly. Like the Aziz Memon case, cases of assault on journalists across the country should be heard in court. He said that a sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Human Rights should be formed on the Journalist Protection Bill. He also invited a PTI member to head the sub committee so that the bill could be reviewed soon.

Leading anchor and journalist Asma Shirazi told the committee that there was no precedent for the ban on freedom of expression which is being used in this hybrid government. Journalists are being pressured by employers to ban freedom of expression. Asma Shirazi told the committee that a journalist protection bill was being brought on one side and a media authority was being set up on the other. “We are not affiliated with any political party,” she said. We belong to the constitution of Pakistan while the supremacy of parliament is our ideology.

“Three major newspapers did not accept me as a columnist,” journalist Absar Alam told the committee. No news channel is willing to take me on its panel as an analyst, he said. Thus, I have been banned unannounced. When I raised some questions in a tweet, I was charged with treason and cybercrime. “Footage of the shooter has surfaced, but to no avail,” he said. On this occasion, the chairman of the committee Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked SSP Investigation Islamabad what progress has been made so far in the Absar Alam case. SSP Investigation told the committee that we have sent the footage of the attackers on Absar Alam to NADRA but they did not respond.

On this occasion, a bitter exchange took place between PTI member Attaullah and Special Secretary Home Affairs regarding the slow progress in the Absar Alam case. Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that bureaucracy is accountable to the parliament. The bureaucracy must satisfy the members of the Standing Committee on Human Rights. Meanwhile, PTI member Lal Malhi said that a meeting of journalists was held in Rawalpindi but he would not say with whom this meeting took place. I know that the Standing Committee on Human Rights Forum is being used to discredit the government, he said.

Leading columnist and anchor Hamid Mir told the standing committee that the army chief had called for Iftar and an off-the-record meeting during Ramadan. A false statement was also associated with the Army Chief that Javed Mengal attacked me when there was no such thing. “Requests are being made in various cities to register treason cases against me and Asma Shirazi,” Hamid Mir said. Hamid Mir said that no organization including PEMRA has not imposed any ban against me but still I am banned in the media. A case of propaganda against the army has been registered against me on the complaint of a person belonging to Lal Masjid.

“Those who attacked me kept talking on the phone during the violence,” Asad Toor said. The faces of the attackers are clear in the footage and so are their fingerprints. In a statement to the committee, journalist Asad Toor detailed the attacks and violence against him. Asad Toor’s lawyer Imaan Mazari said that the geo-fencing report has not been submitted yet. When I took up Asad’s case, I was threatened that if he did not withdraw, I would be harmed. I am the daughter of a federal minister but after taking the case of Asad Toor, I was chased, my car got into an accident one night.

Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked Iman Mazari to share the details. I assure you that this issue will not be viewed in a political manner, he said. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that we will look into the case of Asad. Even if an institution is wrongly accused, we will condemn the accusation. During the meeting, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the Special Secretary Home and DIG Investigation if there was any pressure on him regarding the investigation. Both officers said they were not under pressure to investigate the attacks on journalists.

Journalist and anchor Munizae Jahangir said that journalists and lawyers should be taken on board before the passing of the Journalist Protection Bill. Chairman Bilawal asked the home secretary to state how many attacks on journalists have taken place in Islamabad. The Home Secretary and SP Investigation said that more than 90 cases against journalists were under investigation in Islamabad. On this occasion, journalist Matiullah Jan asked the police what progress has been made so far in his kidnapping case. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the DIG to reply to Matiullah Jan to which he said that no progress could be made in the case of Matiullah.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the attack on journalists in the federal capital is bringing us into disrepute all over the world. He said that the performance of the police authorities is disappointing. Journalist Hamid Mir said the Islamabad Safe City project was controlled by the capital’s police. In answer to Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s question, the DIG Investigation said that he did not know and that he would inform after asking the people associated with the Safe City project.

On this occasion, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that despite the request for footage of Safe City project in Matiullah Jan case, the footage has not been received yet. Talking to a group of journalists after the meeting, in response to a question, Chairman PPP said that he has decided to write a letter to the DG ISI regarding the concerns of journalists and the incidents of attack on them.

For more information, contact:
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