We, the participants representing the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and other members of civil society, hereby declare our strong and unified defense of the right to a free media and free expression, and demand that the right to know should not be taken away from the people of Pakistan. The liberty and safety of journalists and editorial independence are principles of press freedom that we hold as sacrosanct and non-negotiable.
At the very outset, we denounce the imposition of the Provisional Constitutional Order announced on 3 November, 2007, and call for a rollback of all decisions and actions associated with that order. We believe in the reinstatement of the independent judiciary as existed before that date, and believe in the return to the Constitution of 1973 as the only way forward to democracy, pluralism and people-power.
In the meantime, we condemn, as actions against the people of Pakistan, all steps against the media carried out under the PCO. We condemn the two anti-media amendments to press ordinances, as well as the so-called code of conduct that is unilaterally sought to be imposed on media organizations. We condemn the government for having prevented the coverage of the movement opposing emergency rule. We condemn the detention of journalists. We condemn the ban on satellite television channels. We condemn the pressure put on independent press groups. We condemn the amendment of the PEMRA laws, meant to hurt television broadcasters. We condemn the seizure of the equipment of FM radio stations.
We believe that the government’s anti-media actions represent a coordinated policy to prevent the people of Pakistan from receiving independent news and analysis. To this end, the policy is also aimed at attacking the livelihoods not only of thousands of journalists but tens of thousands of individuals working in media organizations throughout the country.
At a time when the life and livelihood of journalists is suddenly in danger, we demand the government to seek the whereabouts of Riaz Mengal, reporter of ‘Intikhab’ in Khuzdar District, Balochistan. We demand that the government arrest the killers of the widow of the late journalist Hayatullah Khan, and provide for the welfare of the couple’s children as well as their relocation from North Waziristan.
The continuous demonstrations by journalists taking place throughout the country are a reminder to the government that the demand for freedom of expression is held dearly by the media world of Pakistan. We commend journalists who have continued these demonstrations throughout the country, and who have dared to face arrest and incarceration.
We demand that the government immediately revoke the two amendments to the ordinances as well as withdraw the so-called code of conduct. We demand that the charges brought against journalists who have been fighting for freedom after the imposition of emergency rule must be immediately dropped.
We believe that President Pervez Musharraf has crossed all bounds in seeking to continue his autocratic rule by muzzling the voice of media, and pledge never to give up the fight for press freedom and the people’s right to know.