Journalists, lawyers and human rights activists seek early enactment of effective Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill:

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Altaf Hamid Rao,

MIRPUR, (Parliament Times): Thirty leading editors, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists expressed concern at the delay in approval of the draft Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2020 that would provide a safe environment for practice of journalism in Pakistan. The draft Bill, which provides a strong base for legislation for protection of media, was presented to the federal cabinet by the Ministry of Human Rights a year ago but is still awaiting approval by the body.

In a series of consultations organized by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), the stakeholders comprising journalists, lawyers and human rights activists, emphasised the importance of empowering the Independent Commission which will be the main mechanism for ensuring media safety and for holding to account those to attack or threaten journalists, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) said in a statement released to the media on Saturday.

The stakeholders recommended that the Independent Commission should be further strengthened by including representatives of the main duty bearers such as the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as well as media and civil society stakeholders as members of the Independent Commission.
The media and civil society stakeholders also recommended that the Independent Commission should be given the authority and the means to hold to account those who attack the media with impunity. Experts felt that giving the Commission power to monitor investigations was not enough and that it should have the authority to summon records and personnel of relevant departments and should also have contempt of court powers if they refuse to appear before the Commission. The journalists’ protection bill should focus solely on the safety of the media and should not have any provisions that could be considered as tools to control the flow of information or restrict freedom of expression, the PPF statement said.

A detailed analysis of the draft bill and recommendations of the stakeholders is contained in the Policy Paper on Draft Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2020 produced by Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) as part of the Civil Society for Independent Media and Expression (CIME) initiative jointly undertaken with Centre for Peace and Development and Media Matters for Democracy.