RSF and several media defenders call on Pakistan's political parties to commit to press freedom in the run-up to elections
As the situation of journalists in Pakistan worsens in the run-up to the general elections, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and several defenders of journalism are launching a crucial appeal to the Pakistani political parties involved in the election campaign to commit to concrete measures in favour of press freedom.
As Pakistan is about to hold general elections and political parties draft new election manifestos to offer voters a package they would like support for as they go to the polls, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the country’s leading press clubs, national and provincial unions of journalists, and RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network call on mainstream and provincial heads of contesting parties to pen their commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of journalists in their party manifestos.
Impunity for crimes against journalists and media is very high in Pakistan, which was among the five countries included in a pilot project of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. RSF’s Pakistan partner Freedom Network’s Annual Impunity 2022 Report stated that there were “no Convictions in 96% of journalist killings” in the past 10 years.
Such a high percentage of impunity for crimes against media practitioners and assistants is alarming and puts journalists in extreme danger for practising journalism, thus denying citizens of Pakistan their right to know and access information – the two fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19A.
“In the run-up to elections, the ball is now in the court of the political parties as regards defending press freedom, as well as journalistic independence and pluralism, as fundamental guarantees of a functioning democracy. RSF, along with Pakistan’s press clubs, journalists unions and press freedom organisations, call on the leaders of the main political parties to make a concrete commitment to our proposals, starting with the search for legislative guarantees for the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against them.
Traditionally, political parties are strong supporters of freedom of expression and press freedom in Pakistan. Journalistic institutions such as press clubs and unions of journalists remained steadfast in upholding the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, of which journalism is an important tool used to exercise the right.
We ask these federal and regional political parties to take our call into consideration and state unambiguously that they will support press freedom, the right to reliable information and the defence of journalists, that they will end impunity for crimes against media through Pakistan’s legal framework and that they will bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against journalists.
The following press clubs, unions of journalists and alliances and organisations have signed this joint statement:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Paris, France
Karachi Press Club, Karachi
Lahore Press Club, Lahore
Quetta Press Club, Quetta
National Press Club, Islamabad
Peshawar Press Club, Peshawar
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists
Karachi Union of Journalists, Karachi
Punjab Union of Journalists, Lahore
Balochistan Union of Journalists, Quetta
Khyber Union of Journalists, Peshawar
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists, Islamabad
Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), Islamabad
Pakistan Journalists Safety Coalition (PJSC)-Federal chapter, Islamabad
Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Karachi
Freedom Network, Islamabad
Mr Hamid Mir, TV journalist, Islamabad
The following political parties were delivered this joint letter to seek their commitment to defending press freedom if they are elected to national and provincial parliament in the forthcoming general elections :
Pakistan People’s Party – PPP
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group) – PML-N
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – PTI
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman group) – JUI-F
Jamaat-e-Islami – JI
Awami National Party – ANP
Muttehida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan – MQM-Pakistan
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – PkMAP
Baluchistan Awami Party – BAP
Baluchistan National Party (Mengal group) – BNP-Mengal
Qaumi Watan Party -QWP
Pakistan Muslim League (Q group) – PML-Q
National Party (Dr Malik Baloch)
Hazara Democratic Party (HDP)