The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing more than 600,000 journalists in 120 countries, is privileged to stand with our colleagues and friends in Pakistan, notably the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in a strong and unified defence of the right to a free media and free expression in Pakistan.
The IFJ is extremely concerned at the alarming increase in the serious risks confronted by media workers in Pakistan in recent years. The IFJ’s Executive Committee earlier this year identified Pakistan’s press freedom crisis as a global priority. The situation has become even worse since the IFJ issued a report in April, the title of which says much about the current situation: “A State of Denial: The crisis of press freedom and journalist safety in Pakistan”.
Today, the IFJ fully supports the courageous actions of journalists, media houses and others in Pakistan who put themselves at risk by speaking out and refusing to bow to repression.
The IFJ notes with satisfaction the support given by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) in joining forces with the PFUJ to call for a return to freedom of expression in Pakistan.
The IFJ and its affiliates, including the PFUJ and members of the South Asian Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), condemn the declaration of a state of emergency and the associated anti-media ordinances imposed by President Pervez Musharraf and the Government of Pakistan since 3 November 2007.
The ordinances and associated amendments censor and block media houses and journalists in the conduct of their work and the fulfilment of their duty to provide the people of Pakistan with information about the affairs of their country and beyond.
Global condemnation of repression and censorship in Pakistan stresses that the actions of President Musharraf violate the right to freedom of the press as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Pakistan is a signatory. Under Article 19 of the Declaration, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
The IFJ and its affiliates are also concerned about the efforts of authorities in Pakistan to compel media outlets and personnel to sign on to the code of conduct drawn up by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA).
The IFJ encourages journalists’ organisations to adopt their own independent and professional codes of ethics. The IFJ has in fact drawn up a model code of conduct which professional organisations worldwide have responded to with favour. However, such codes must be developed freely and independently of government and overseen by professional associations of journalists.
The SAMSN Declaration, agreed in Nepal in September 2007, reiterates the commitment of journalists throughout South Asia “to encourage journalists’ organisations to adopt codes of ethics” and “to develop and strengthen independent systems of self-regulation under the jurisdiction of media professionals which can act as monitors paying particular attention to issues of diversity in the media and violations of press freedom”.
The PEMRA code of conduct is not about the genuinely ethical and professional conduct of journalists.
The IFJ and its affiliates are also extremely disturbed by the expansion of Pakistan’s censorship beyond its own borders, with reports that authorities in Dubai closed a Pakistan broadcaster under pressure from authorities in Pakistan. This is unacceptable and underlines the serious cross-border implications of the crisis in Pakistan’s media.
The IFJ and its affiliates, including the PFUJ and members of SAMSN, call on President Musharraf and Pakistan’s caretaker government:
• To restore, both in spirit and practice, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of association in Pakistan.
• To revoke immediately the ordinances issued since 3 November that amend the Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002 (including, Section 5A) and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 (including, Section 20).
• To end broadcasting bans immediately and restore the right to publish and broadcast to all media outlets in Pakistan, without fear or favour.
• To withdraw all charges and/or penalties applied or pending under the above ordinances.
• To release and absolve all journalists and human rights activists arrested or detained since 3 November, and held without charge or explanation or on the questionable grounds of the above ordinances.
• To refrain from seeking to influence the leadership and/or authorities of other countries to support Pakistan’s actions in denying its citizens free and open access to information from within and without Pakistan.
• To end all incursions and raids by authorities and military on the offices and/or homes of media businesses and personnel, in reference to the above ordinances.
• To abolish the PEMRA code of conduct and desist from coercing media businesses and personnel to sign it.
• To make a firm and genuine commitment to permit journalists to report without fear for their own safety or that of their families, and to work for the protection of journalists in the conduct of their work.
The IFJ and its affiliates reiterate their commitment to stand by defenders of press freedom in Pakistan and across the world, as stressed explicitly in the SAMSN Declaration.
“We believe in professional freedom not as a privilege but as a responsibility, embodying respect for the truth and the right of every individual citizen to know”.