Will The Proposed Law Protecting Journalists Protect Them?

Law is actually a system of collective principles that are enforced by an institution (usually the government) to organize and regulate society and on which the collective attitudes of that society depend.

If the words are expanded, it would be said that the law; There is a system of official doctrine and discipline that encompasses areas such as the constitution, legislation, judicial opinion and lessons, and the discipline to govern and enforce it in society. State power can be used (or is used) for (when and as needed).

Because the law applies to society as a whole, it affects the lives of everyone living in that society. For example, a covenant law, which governs everything that is purchased, whether it is a television or a financial instrument?

Similarly, the law of property, which prescribes the duties and obligations of buying, selling and renting immovable property such as house, building and property.

Last week, two bills were introduced in Pakistan’s National and Sindh Provincial Assemblies that Pakistani journalists have been demanding for decades.

The bill deals with the protection of journalists and media officials working in Pakistan. But less than a week after the proposed law to protect journalists was introduced at the national and provincial levels, unknown individuals broke into the home of journalist and YouTube villager Asad Ali Tor in the capital of Islamabad and tortured him. He was injured.

However, Asad Ali is not the first journalist to be the victim of such attacks. In Pakistan, there have been daily incidents of journalists being beaten, tortured and even killed.

According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, 61 journalists were killed in Pakistan between 1992 and 2019, while according to Amnesty International; Pakistan is one of the countries where the profession of journalism is dangerous because of the violence against journalists. Are not punished and no decision can be made on such cases.

What does the proposed law protecting journalist say?

The Protection of Journalists Bill was drafted by Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shirin Mazari in consultation with journalists and legal experts. Another similar bill has been introduced by the Sindh government in the Provincial Assembly on May 23, 2021.

In both the bills, journalists are exempted from disclosing their sources of information and Article 19 of the Constitution makes it the responsibility of the state to protect the lives and property of journalists.

According to the bill to be introduced in the National Assembly, the government will ensure that no current or future law on terrorism or national security is used to obstruct and silence journalists.

Under the proposed law, a commission will also be set up with the powers of a civil court. The commission will consist of one representative from each province of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, a total of four. One representative from the National and one representative from each provincial press club. One representative each from the Ministry of Information and Human Rights will be part of the commission. The commission will be chaired by a retired judge or a person with 20 years of experience in law and human rights.

If a journalist is harassed or tortured, the details of the incident will be presented to the commission within 14 days and the commission will decide on the matter within 14 days.

The Commission has the power to summon any person during the investigation of the incident and to request documents or report from any institution.

In addition, the proposed law requires media owners to be trained in personal safety within a year of hiring each journalist.

Will the proposed law protecting journalists protect them?

In April 2014, journalist Hamid Mir was assassinated in Karachi in which he was seriously injured. The then Prime Minister ordered the formation of a three-judge commission of the Supreme Court to investigate the incident.

Hamid Mir says that neither the then ISI chief Zaheerul Islam, whom Hamid Mir had accused of carrying out the attack, appeared before the commission nor did he receive a report from the commission to date. Hamid Mir says that if the bill is passed without any amendment, the country’s journalists may have some hope for their safety, but he fears that some constituencies will not pass the bill in its original form.

The commission proposed in the bill has a large number of journalists working in the field. But I fear that the majority of journalists in this commission will be reduced. If the journalists are in the majority, they will try to complete the case, so maybe some people in this commission want to turn the journalists into a minority.

Hamid Mir says that the bill presented in the National Assembly is better than the bill presented in the Sindh Assembly because the commission proposed in the bill of Sindh Assembly has also included the officials of journalist’s organization, bar council etc. Due to which there is no majority of working journalists in the commission.

However, journalist Mazhar Abbas disagrees. According to him, the law presented in the Sindh Assembly is better than the bill of the National Assembly because it gives the commission the power to take 100 notices. The inclusion of representatives of other organizations in the commission will further strengthen it.

Mazhar Abbas says that “the enactment of this law may not end the violence against journalists, but the perpetrators may be identified.”

According to both Hamid Mir and Mazhar Abbas, the introduction of these laws at the national and provincial levels is a good step and an important step in taking action against violence against journalists.

But Assad Ali, who was tortured in Islamabad yesterday, and journalist Bilal Farooqi, who was arrested last year for sharing material on social media against the military, are not overly optimistic about the law.

Assad says the fact that they were tortured just days after the bill was introduced is proof that those involved in violence against journalists have no value to the law, and that is the message that the government has. Wanted to give because of which they were targeted.

The bill makes the protection of journalists the responsibility of the government, but the biggest threat to journalists is from state institutions. So will the government provide protection to journalists against state institutions whose job it is to provide such protection?

Bilal Farooq says that the government makes these laws for the protection of the citizens and then these laws are used against the journalists.

The person who lodged the FIR against me has never appeared before the court but to date this FIR has not been dismissed. And we all know on whose orders this was done. So it doesn’t matter what the bill is, it will continue to happen.