QUETTA: Journalists, political parties and lawyers have expressed their resolve to fight for the freedom of the press, expression and speech guaranteed in the Constitution.
They vowed to take every possible measure including a long march for safeguarding these fundamental rights next month from Quetta.
These and other demands were made on the concluding day of a seminar on the “Freedom of the Press and Resolution of Media Crisis” in Quetta.
The speakers from political parties, bar councils, civil society, Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ), Quetta Press Club and Balochistan Editors Council announced all-out support for the PFUJ demands.
The other demands included an end to muffling of the freedom of media and expression, repressive censorship, press advice, retrenchments of journalists and media workers, payment of salaries, the abolition of the unjust and discriminatory advertisement policy of the federal government and implementation of the 8th Wage Board Award.
Addressing the seminar provincial minister for sports and culture Abdul Khaliq Hazara, underlined the importance of the freedom of press and speech.
However, he was of the view that any kind of freedom should not be used to divide communities and society, on sectarian and ethnic lines.
“Only free press can guarantee the country’s progress as it ensures accountability and transparency”, he asserted.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Ali Ahmed Kurd in his presidential address traced the history and heroic role of the people of Balochistan in safeguarding human rights and freedom of the press since the creation of Pakistan.
While recalling the barbaric trail and the state repressions incident of the Kulli Camp near Quetta, said the ordinary people used to pass on news and important stories to the press.
“The resilience, political consciousness of the people of Balochistan gained through decades-long struggle are unparalleled,” the lawyers’ leader said. “No power can suppress them anymore”, he exhorted.
PFUJ president Shehzada Zulfiqar said the seminar is part of a series of seminars the organisation has planned in all the provincial capitals. The final national seminar will be held in Islamabad.
About the objective of the seminar, he said the initiate was aimed at initiating the process of dialogue among institutions and democratic forces to create awareness about the fundamental right to freedom of speech and media as well as to promote tolerance and democratic values in society.
“It is the responsibility of the media to tell the truth to the people as they are the better judges to decide what is right and what is wrong,” he explained.
About the long march, he said any movement started from Quetta had never failed. He hoped that the long march for the resolution of media crisis will certainly be another success.
The PFUJ secretary-general and veteran trade union leader Nasir Zaidi held the government responsible for the media crisis due to which 8,000 journalists and media workers have lost their jobs and dozens of TV channels and newspapers have shut their operation.
He regretted that even the 8th Wage Award is not being implemented.
Explaining the motive behind the long march, Mr Zaidi said Balochistan is a symbol of resistance. He said that Pakistan has been entangled in various crises. The only way to steer the country out of these quagmires is to establish the rule of the constitution, the supremacy of the Parliament, respect for human rights and freedom of the press, he maintained.
A spokesperson for the Balochistan government Liaquat Shahwani spelt out his government’s steps for the media industry and for the betterment of journalists and media workers that include endowment fund and academy for the training of journalists and media workers.
Local leaders of the various political parties actively participated in the seminar and termed the current political anarchy and state of freedom of press, expression d speech in the country alarming and dangerous for the unity of the country and demanded to forge unity among the ranks of various stakeholders and urge to join the single platform for launching struggle for achieving goals of human rights, rights of different classes, freedom of the press and forcing the oppressors and usurpers to desist from adopting anti-people and anti-worker policies. Mahayudin Baluch of BNPA, Syed Agha Nasir Shah of BNP, Mabaat Kaka of ANP, Dr Atta ur Rehman of Jamat Islami, Dilawar Khan Kakar of JUI (F) Dr Munir Baloch of PTI, Jan Muhammad Bulaidi of National Party, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal of PKMAP, Haji Ali Muhammad Jatak of PPP in their speeches condemned the government’s tirade against media imposing censorship, and nonpayment of dues to the tune of Rs 6 billion pending with the federal government and announced support for a long march from Quetta next month.
Representatives of bar councils and media bodies, writers and human right activists in Baluchistan praised the long and heroic struggle of PFUJ since the inception of Pakistan and said the country and media industry is passing through of the worst period of the entire history. Such a worst situation even never witnessed during the military dictatorships of Ayob Khan, Zia ul Haq and Pervaiz Musharaf as the current rulers have adopted dictatorial and authoritarian policies to curb and deny basic human rights of people of Pakistan and severely damaged the basic fabric of the society by imposing censorship and denying freedom of speech in the country, they said. Salman Ashraf of BUJ, Muhammad Qasim Gajizai vice chairman of Baluchistan bar Council, Rahat Malik a noted writer, Anwar Sajidi of Baluchistan Editors council, Iqbal Kasi of Quetta bar, Zahoor Shahwani of HRCP, and Raza ur Rehman president Quetta Press Club said that political parties for the sake of political gimmicks mention press freedom and human rights in manifestoes during the election campaign, but ignore when they are elected and form governments in centre and provinces.
Saleem Shahid Senior Vice president PFUJ presented the resolution on issues confronted by the media community and industry and for launching a long march from Quetta, which was unanimously adopted.