PFUJ Campaign Crucial to Media Coverage of Pakistan Elections

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) commends the commitment and persistence of leading journalists’ organisation the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, to defend press freedom in Pakistan against efforts to restrict media coverage in the lead-up to national elections on February 18.

The PFUJ extended its three-month press freedom campaign by launching the countrywide “Free Media for Fair Polls” petition on January 12 to condemn and resist anti-media ordinances imposed by President Pervez Musharraf under emergency rule in November 2007, the closure of 45 television channels, and gags on the media enforced by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) ahead of the elections.

More than 2000 journalists from across Pakistan and numerous international press freedom organisations signed the petition, which stipulated that fair, democratic and transparent elections were not possible without permitting journalists to act on their rights to report freely and fairly.  

The PFUJ had feared more restrictions would be placed on the media, particularly television channels, on election day as the caretaker Government reportedly issued directives to PEMRA to take action against broadcasters who violated its heavily restrictive “code of conduct”.

PFUJ General Secretary Mazhar Abbas reported that PEMRA issued a controversial notification of its “code of conduct” for election reporting on the morning of February 18. However, the representative organisation for media broadcasters, the Pakistan Broadcasters’ Association (PBA), refused to accept the notification and threatened a complete black-out of all national coverage of the elections if PEMRA took further action.

No reports of complaints or violence against journalists have been lodged and the situation for the media is currently better than expected, Abbas said.

While the composition of the government remains to be finalised, the IFJ reminds the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) to follow through on commitments they gave during the election campaign to do all they could to revoke the media ordinances imposed under the November state of emergency and to restore press freedom.

“The clear message to all potential leaders of Pakistan is that if democracy is to succeed, press freedom must be upheld and the safety and rights of all media workers as the guardians of freedom of expression must be protected,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“Both anti-media ordinances must be formally and permanently withdrawn and all bans imposed on journalists, editorial content, radio and television coverage must be lifted.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries