Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned to learn of a new effort by Pakistan’s
newspaper owners to secure a judicial order that declares the law on wages and
working conditions in the industry contradicts constitutional freedoms.
According to reports received from
the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, a bench of
the High Court of Sindh in Karachi
held one hearing of the petition brought before it by the All Pakistan
Newspaper Society (APNS) and the Herald Newspapers group yesterday and will
resume hearings tomorrow.
“The IFJ is appalled that these
long-running stalling tactics by newspaper owners are obstructing Pakistan’s
journalists in their quest for a fair deal, posing a needless challenge to
their professional security and dignity when they are already under pressure
from the delicate law and order situation,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
At the centre of the petition is the
Newspaper Employees’ (Conditions of Service) Act which was passed into law by Pakistan’s
National Assembly in 1973. The owners have argued that the law, which singles
out the newspaper industry for a statutory determination of wages, is
discriminatory and goes against constitutional provisions on free speech and
the liberty of commerce.
The PFUJ, through its legal
representatives, argues that the law has been passed by the peoples’
representatives after due deliberation and embodies the public interest in
safeguarding conditions of service in the newspaper industry, which is more
than a commercial enterprise and serves an essential public function.
According to the PFUJ, owners failed
in an earlier effort to approach Pakistan’s Supreme Court to declare
the law unconstitutional.
The IFJ notes that the Wage Award
for journalists was mandated in 2000 and has been very partially implemented by
“The protective legislation for Pakistan’s
journalists has languished far too long in official neglect, while newspaper
managements have actively blocked its most salutary provisions,” White said.
“Pakistan’s newspaper owners must
abandon their effort at legal obstruction and step up with a fair deal for
their workers. Only then can the very serious security challenges facing the
media community in Pakistan,
typified by the crisis of safety in the country’s conflict-prone regions, be
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