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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said that the “Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021” would ensure rights of freedom of expression, security, health, safety, insurance, and job security for working journalists.

The president expressed these views while addressing the signing ceremony of Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021 at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Wednesday.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari, state ministers and editors of various media organisations participated in the ceremony.

The president voiced his concerns over the fake news, saying this poses a serious threat to the societies and the matter needs to be tackled effectively to avoid anarchy.

The president said that a responsible journalist investigates a news before airing or publishing it. He said that according to the holy Quran, we should investigate and confirm the news before communicating it to the others.

He said that in history, conflict was created between nations on communication of fake news.

The president expressed his pleasure over the consensus developed on this important piece of legislation.

He said there is uniformity of views regarding the rights of journalists and with this act, the responsibility of both the government and the media owners have increased.

He said that threats are faced by the media professionals, this act provides for their right to life and protection against ill treatment.

The president said other salient features of the act include right to privacy and source non-disclosure and establishment of an independent media commission.

He said that whilst the society has a responsibility to demonstrate tolerance towards the journalists who are out to perform their duties, it is also for the journalists to act in a responsible manner and present the stories in the right context.

Federal Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that her ministry drafted the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021 by taking all stakeholders including journalists’ organisations on board.

She said that every journalist and media professional’s right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the Constitution, is safeguarded (Section 3).

She said that journalists and media professionals have the right to be allowed to carry out their journalistic work in conflict-affected areas within the country, without threats, intimidation, harassment or fear of persecution or targeting.

She said that the Act provides for the establishment of an Independent Commission for protection of journalists and media professionals that shall include members from Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and National Press Club (NPC) and representatives from the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

She said that the commission to report its findings on any institution or organisation who is, directly or indirectly, involved in violating, or attempting to violate, the rights to life and protection against ill-treatment safeguarded in Section 3 to the federal government and recommend appropriate course of action against the perpetrator(s) of these violations (Section 3).

The minister said that the government will take all steps to protect journalists and media professionals from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of any person, institution (private or public) or authority.

She said that the Act aims to institute a Journalist Welfare Scheme whereby each media owner shall produce a comprehensive, written safety policy and protocols for journalists and media professionals.

The minister said that the Act empowers the Commission to provide redressal to journalists by inquiring into their complaints of threats, or acts of torture, killing, violent attacks, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention and harassment, and determining cases that are eligible for compensation from relevant federal and provincial funds.

Speaking on the occasion, Fawad Chaudhary said that it was the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of the working journalists.

“The government is standing behind the working journalists,” he maintained.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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