Roundtable Conference calls upon political parties to incorporate ‘protection of journalists’ into their manifesto

Islamabad: A roundtable conference of radio journalists and representatives of civil society on ‘Conflict Reporting’ has called for taking a number of measures for the safety of journalists including introducing ‘Journalists’ Safety Bill’, establishing Legal Aid Fund for media personnel, investigation into murder cases of journalists and paying compensation to the families of journalists losing life in the line of duty.

The day-long conference organized by Pakistan Press Foundation at a local hotel, which ended last evening, also urged for prosecution into cases of murders, attacks and intimidation of journalists and called upon the political parties to incorporate into their manifesto a resolve to protect the journalists.

The participants of conference drawn from different parts of country including conflict hit-areas like FATA and PATA, recommended for formation of national alliance of journalists’ organizations and groups of eminent persons of media to raise voice against targeting the journalists, as Pakistan now tops the countries considered to be very dangerous for the journalists. They suggested adopting safety protocol for journalists and code of journalism ethics.

Urging the concerned organizations for imparting training to the media persons on ‘conflict reporting’, the conference said the press clubs should be hub of all the activities including trainings.

Rahimullah Yousufzai, a senior journalist and Resident Editor of English daily The News, Peshawar, who moderated the conference, quoted certain reports on killings of journalists in Pakistan and said the data shows that Sindh province tops in killings of journalists.

The conference discussed various aspects of radio journalism including the editorial policies, reporting, capacity, financial and technical issues, security risk etc. faced by FM radios in Pakistan. It transpired during the discussion that the radio journalists are lacking the professional approach while performing the duties and direly need the training in this regard.

It was also noted that the FM radios have not yet been turned into a proper news source, as they have not established their own newsrooms and network of correspondents and reporters and instead depend on news reports provided by other sources. Owing to such a situation, the radio journalists are not recognized as journalists and even the press clubs do not offer them membership.

Ayub Tareen and some other radio professionals from Quetta told the conference that there was no more independent journalism in Balochistan where grave situation prevails due to security threats to journalists. “One has to serve as an employee and not as journalist if he wants to be alive,” Tareen said, who has shifted to Islamabad after security risk in Quetta.

He said the radio professionals used to receive orders from banned outfits not to edit a single word of their statements.

Babar Yousuf and Ms. Huma of Quetta said they no more broadcast news reports of their own and instead report the news published in different newspapers. Shaharyar of Dilbar Radio Charsadda told that their radio station was twice attacked causing damage in bombing.

Earlier, Ms. Sadaf Baig of Intermedia gave a presentation on coverage ratio of Afghan war in Pakistani media. During the discussion on survey report, it was felt that there was need of close interaction between the journalists of tow countries to bridge the gap and remove misunderstands that would help in balanced reporting.

Iqbal Khattak of Internews, Nasir Aijaz of PPF, Ms. Rahila Durrani, Minister for Prosecution, Balochistan, and many other participants also spoke.

Ms. Rahila Durrani, who is also a human rights activist, said she would take up the issue of prosecuting the elements involved in attacks and intimidation of journalists in her province.

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