HRCP calls for end to media curbs

Lahore, January 23: While welcoming the lifting of the cable-ban on the Geo News the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for the removal of all curbs on the media and an end to the climate of fear in which media persons are working.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is relieved to learn that the cable-ban on the Geo news and sports channels has been lifted. The ban was unjustified and it violated not only the broadcaster’s freedom of expression but also the people’s freedom of information, besides causing hardship to thousands of journalists and workers. It seems their suffering might well have been reduced if President Musharraf’s trip to Brussels had been scheduled earlier.

Now that its rancour against the media appears to be subsiding the government should be able to realize the need for withdrawing all restrictions that prevent the media from serving the people with truthful accounts of events and an atmosphere of free debate. In June last year the government had promised to withdraw the Pemra (Amendment) Ordinance against which media organizations had strongly protected. That pledge remained unredeemed and on November 3 the harsh measure was reintroduced. At the same time the Presses, Newspapers and News Agencies Ordinance (earlier called Press and Publication Ordinance) was amended so as to increase the threat of executive’s punitive action. Subequally came the ordinance on cyber offences which is causing considerable concern to the media people. All these restrictive measures have created a climate of fear for journalists and unless this climate is ended a basic condition of free elections will not be met. Neither the media will be able to grow, nor will the people secure their right to know, if the media remains subject to the whim and caprice of Pemra or, worse, a single individual.

Iqbal Haider,
Secretary – General

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