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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that democracy and media freedom reinforce each other and go hand in hand, adding that free media is an important pillar of any democratic system.

Addressing the Safety Journalist Forum, here on Tuesday, the prime minister said that despite the chequered history, Pakistan has and will always be a democracy. He said, of course, there have been stints where there was a military dictatorship but the country returned to democracy and let’s pray that this nascent democracy becomes stronger by the day.

Prime Minister Shehbaz said that freedom of expression in this country has been very close to the heart of civil society, journalists, print and electronic media, as well as, other important segments of the society. He said that the journalist safety commission, no doubt, has faced difficult circumstances. Journalists have contributed in a very big way to safeguard their rights and freedom of expression.

He said that the recent killing of well-known journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya is very sad. He said he spoke to the president of Kenya himself and the foreign minister also contacted the relevant authorities of Kenya and others. He said he spoke to other agencies to bring his body back to Pakistan.

The prime minister said that he had written a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan to form a commission regarding the murder of Arshad Sharif.

He said that on this occasion, he acknowledges that the Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition is to promote the safety, security and protection of journalists in the line of duty. This day marks 10 years of the UN Action Plan.

The premier said that the 1973 Constitution was the result of the consensus of the country’s political leadership and despite their differences and internal problems, they came together for one important objective and made a constitution which is still strength for the federation of Pakistan and it is the power that even earthquakes and floods cannot disturb.

He said that the principle of freedom of expression and freedom of information is a vital pillar of any democratic system and my government strongly believes that these freedoms and rights are important for the development of democracy. “We are committed to supporting all efforts that promote and uphold these enlightened principles,” Shehbaz said.

The prime minister said that in 2013, Pakistan was included in the list as a pilot country for the implementation of the United Nations Action Plan for the Protection of Journalists and the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif fully supported this initiative.

PM Shehbaz stated that Pakistan has become the first country in Asia to pass legislation related to the protection of journalists from the Sindh Assembly and his party and the coalition government wants the same in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. Last year, the Parliament of Pakistan passed the Protection of Journalists and Media Profession Act after consultation with all stakeholders and this law was unanimously approved by the Parliament, he added.

He said that he acknowledges that journalists are still facing various challenges in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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