Pakistan Bar Council forms 7-member committee to protect journalists' rights

Islamabad, PakistanUpdated: Oct 01, 2020, 02:35 PM IST

The US report on Terrorism (2020) had reiterated that terrorist groups targeting India, including the JeM and LeT, continued to operate from Pakistani soil. Photograph:(WION Web Team)

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The PBC announced that any aggrieved journalist in need of legal aid or services could approach the committee

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has constituted a seven-member committee to protect the rights of journalists amidst the perception of a fast-shrinking space for dissent in the country, a media report said on Thursday.

The Journalistic Defence Committee was set up on Tuesday by the PBC, which itself is a mother institution regulating the affairs of the legal fraternity.

Dawn reported that the committee was formed in view of the alleged policies of the government undermining the freedom of expression through a draconian cybercrime law, particularly making it increasingly difficult for journalists to discharge and perform their duties independently in accordance with the demand of their professional obligations and journalistic practices.

The committee formed by PBC vice chairman Abid Saqi will provide legal assistance and services to journalists and their elected bodies in the courts of law at Islamabad/Rawalpindi for protecting their rights.

Headed by Barrister Jahangir Jadoon, the committee consists of advocates Mohammad Usman Warraich, retired Col Inam-ur-Raheem, Sajid Tanoli, Babar Hayat Samoor, Umer Gillani and Haider Imtiaz.

The PBC announced that any aggrieved journalist in need of legal aid or services could approach the committee.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists had at a recent meeting in Quetta accused Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of denying press freedom, and freedom of speech and expression in the country.

Kidnapping of journalists, harassment of women journalists and the prolonged incarceration of Jang Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakeelur Rehman caught in the accountability cycle have alarmed not only the media but also the lawyers' community.

Speaking at an oath-taking ceremony of the Press Association of the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa also mentioned the World Press Freedom Index published by the Reporters Without Frontiers that evaluates 180 countries and ranks them according to the prevalence of press freedom.

According to Justice Isa, it ranked Pakistan at a very low position of 139 in terms of the freedom index in 2017-18, which then slipped to 142nd position in 2019 and then took the plunge to a shameful 145th.

The Supreme Court judge also stated that when citizens fight for press freedom, they fight for their own rights.
If people surrender their right to free speech and expression or permit the censorship of the press, it will not be long before other guaranteed freedoms are taken away, he added.