Media’s liberty linked with democratic, judicial freedom: speakers say at PU webinar

LAHORE: Speakers at a national webinar on press freedom have called upon the need to create unity among journalist organizations to fight the war against unnecessary restrictions on media and said that media freedom in Pakistan was associated with the independence of democracy and judiciary. 

The webinar was organized by Punjab University School of Communication Studies in which Pro Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Saleem Mazhar, SCS Director Prof Dr Noshina Saleem, senior most teachers of journalism including Prof Dr Mehdi Hasan, Prof Dr Shafiq Jullandhry, Dr Mujahid Ali Mansoori, eminent journalists Salman Ghani, Hamid Mir, Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari, Punjab Union of Journalist President Rana Azeem, PU TV Director and moderator Dr Shabbir Sarwar, faculty members and a large number of students participated. 

Dr Mehdi Hasan said that we could not achieve press freedom unless we ensured “right to know” and promoted investigative journalism. He said that political parties and organizations of journalists should jointly work for the freedom of press in the country. 

Dr Mujahid Mansoori said that Pakistani media enjoyed a limited freedom however the people could not benefit even from that limited autonomy of the press to the extent they should. 

He said that it was the job of our media to bring positive change in the behavior of a common man and universities should also play their role in this regard. 

Salman Ghani said that when the politicians were in opposition, they supported media freedom however when they came to power, they changed their mindset regarding press freedom. He said that Pakistani media organizations were working under immense pressure. He said that Pakistani media must protect national interest, respect state institutions and highlight human rights and other issues. He said that an independent Pakistani media would lead to its development. He said that strengthening of journalist organizations was a must to achieve media freedom in Pakistan. He said that Pakistani journalists had sacrificed their lives in the line of their duties.

Hamid Mir said that Pakistani media had faced restrictions in the name of national interest and patriotism. He said that an independent press in Pakistan could lead to economic development of the country as well. He said that if the Journalists Protection Bill was not passed by the National Assembly in 2021, Pakistan might lose GSP Plus status and its 40 percent exports of textile industry to Europe might suffer. He said that the elements who were delaying approval of the Journalists Protection Bill were actually weakening Pakistan. He said that press freedom was in the best interest of the state and democracy. He said that if the fourth pillar of the state was weak, then how could the state be strong? He said that the media freedom must be enjoyed with responsibility. He said that unnecessary restrictions on the internet might damage foreign investment in Pakistan. He said that the journalists and media organizations in India and Bangladesh were suffering from more threats and dangers than Pakistani journalists did face while performing their job. He said that attacks on journalists in Pakistan had increased 40 percent. He said that how long a journalist could fight if the owners would be put behind the bars? 

Dr Saleem Mazhar said that Pakistani journalists had played a key role for Pakistan to get important place in the Muslim world. He said that Pakistani journalists must continue their struggle for the welfare of  the public at large and move forward. 

Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari said that Pakistan had been declared a dangerous place for journalists. He said that journalism in Pakistan had been attacked many times since 1947. He said that many restrictions had been imposed on journalists and their own social media channels were now also facing curbs. He said that all the journalist organizations must unite for media freedom. 

Rana Azeem said that the journalists who speak, write and show truth faced bullets and bars. He said that as many as 4113 journalists have lost their jobs during this government. He said that an attack on any journalist must be considered as an attack on the whole community. He called upon PFUJ, PUJ, APNS, PBA, CPNE, press clubs and other journalist organizations to unite for the freedom of media in the country. 

Dr Noshina Saleem thanked the participants and said that an independent press could play an important role in socio-economic development of the country. She said that such activities would be continued in the future for debates and seeking solutions to various issues.

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