ISLAMABAD: The Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021 – aimed at safeguarding the right to freedom of expression – is expected to be signed by President Dr. Arif Alvi on Wednesday (December 1).
The National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan had passed the Bill on November 8, 2021, and November 19, 2021, respectively. Under the bill, the government has been authorized to establish a commission for protection of journalists and media professionals which will inquire into complaints against threats or acts of torture, killing, violent attacks, forced disappearance, and arbitrary arrests.
The reports of the Commission would be laid before parliament through the Ministry of Human Rights. The Bill would enable to actively investigate, prosecute and punish acts of violence and any threats to journalists providing protection of their lives. According to the statement of Objects and Reasons, the protection and promotion of rights of journalists and media professionals are central to safeguarding the right to freedom of expression.
In fact, the International Federation of Journalists has emphasized, “Work of a free, independent and impartial press constitutes one of the basic foundations of a democratic society.” There is, therefore, an urgent need to ensure accountability for all forms of threats, coercion, and violence against journalists and media professionals.
As per Bill, the government shall ensure that every journalist and media professional’s right to life and security of person, as contained in Article 9 of the constitution, is safeguarded and that no such individual is subjected to Ill-treatment. No person or institution, whether private or public, shall engage in any acts that violate the right to life and security of any journalist or media professional.
The government shall ensure that effective measures are taken to protect journalists and media professionals against forced or involuntary disappearance, kidnapping, abduction, or other methods of coercion. All journalists and media professionals must respect the rights or reputations of others and not produce material that advocates national, racial, ethnic, religious, sectarian, linguistic, cultural, or gender-based hatred which may constitute an incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.
All journalists and media professionals must not engage in the dissemination of material known by such an individual to be false or untrue.