22 May | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Govt tells media to follow ethics, enjoy ‘press freedom’

President Asif Zardari stresses need to provide an enabling environment free of intimidation or harassment to journalists; PM Shehbas Sharif calls freedom of press and expression foundation of democracy and protection of civil rights as well as voice of truth

President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom of the press; however, it is also responsibility of the media to abide by journalistic ethics and report responsibly and accurately, keeping in view the national interest.

In his message on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, he stressed the need to provide an enabling environment free of intimidation or harassment to journalists so that they could freely express their opinions. “Today, we also recognize commendable role played by the media in promoting democratic values in the world, as well as raising awareness about issues of social and economic significance,” he said.

The World Press Freedom Day is commemorated every year on May 3 to affirm commitment to cultivating an environment where the media is independent and enjoys freedoms with responsibility. “I am hopeful that the media would continue to contribute constructively in raising awareness about issues of global concern. I am sure that media advocacy of these issues would spur international action to save our planet from the threat of climate change,” the president said.

He said the day provides all with an opportunity to reflect on the state of press freedom and make efforts to create a safe and conducive working environment for the journalists. “We believe that an independent press is essential for highlighting issues of global importance, dispelling fake news and myths, and serving as a watchdog for our society,” he said, adding that the media has a crucial role in creating awareness about issues of global concern.

The theme – A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis – underscored the importance of a free press in creating awareness and educating the people about climate change and its impacts on human life and the environment, the president said. “We believe that the media can play its role in encouraging people to protect the environment by promoting forestation, adopting clean technologies, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting biodiversity to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change on our ecosystem,” he remarked.

‘Let us carry forward torch of press freedom, illuminating pathways of accountability and fostering dialogue’

In his message, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif assured journalists that the government would make all-out efforts to uplift the media industry and resolve the issues confronting it. He reiterated the resolve for government’s maximum cooperation to protect the rights of media industry as well as the media workers. He paid tribute to the journalists, media workers, writers and cameramen and lauded their fight for truth.

He said the male and female journalists who sacrificed their lives during coverage in Gaza were the heroes of humanity. He said that fighting oppression and digging out the truth was the message of the World Press Freedom Day as well as the lesson from the history. He said the freedom of press and expression were the foundation of democracy and protection of civil rights as well as the voice of truth in the society.

He urged the collective role of media and other stakeholders to create a conducive atmosphere to ensure smooth media functioning. He said that during his precious 16-month government, Pakistan had improved by seven points in the World Press Freedom Index. At that time, he recalled that the government had taken steps including legislation for media protection, health insurance, and payment of billions of rupees to media and insurance amount worth millions of rupees to the media workers.

‘Let’s empower journalists to fearlessly navigate realms of truth, shaping a brighter future for all’

In his message, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto expressed solidarity with journalists and media professionals worldwide, and reaffirmed his party’s staunch support for the invaluable role of a free and independent press in fostering democracy. He called press freedom vital for nurturing transparency, accountability, and proliferation of diverse ideas within the society.

In Pakistan, the press has served as a watchdog, uncovering injustices, exposing corruption, and amplifying the voices of the marginalized, he said. Expressing concern over censorship, fake news, and violence faced by journalists, he urged media organizations to uphold journalistic integrity, impartiality, and professionalism in their reporting. He reiterated the party’s unwavering support for press freedom, grounded in democracy and liberty principles.

He said that the 1973 Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression, including press freedom, a legacy of Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Highlighting Benazir Bhutto’s efforts to promote press freedom, including abolishing censorship laws and supporting independent media growth, he said that the former prime minister championed press freedom and human rights, underscoring their significance in democratic governance and seeking support during dictatorial regimes.

The PPP chairman expressed his party’s solidarity with journalists in conflict zones, praising their courage in reporting on human rights abuses despite grave risks. “Let us carry forward the torch of press freedom, illuminating pathways of accountability and fostering dialogue. Through our unwavering support, let’s empower journalists to fearlessly navigate the realms of truth, shaping a brighter future for all,” he concluded.

‘When we lose a journalist, we lose our eyes and ears to the outside world’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called Year 2023 marked one more devastating year for journalism, as 71 journalists and media workers were killed. “It was a year characterized – again – by impunity,” he said,, adding that only 13% of the murder cases have been investigated. “I think of the countless, fearless individuals daring to question,” he said.

“When I think of the values of journalism, I think of trust, truth and integrity,” he said. “When we lose a journalist, we lose our eyes and ears to the outside world. We lose a voice for the voiceless. We lose, in fact, a human rights defender,” he said. The World Press Freedom Day was established to celebrate the value of truth and to protect the people who work courageously to uncover it.

“We are marking it this year in an era of acute global turmoil and the profound fragmentation and polarization of humanity,” Volker Turk said, adding that conflict was boiling over in many places – from Myanmar, to Sudan, Ukraine, Gaza and several other parts of the world – causing intolerable human suffering. “Disinformation is infecting our media and digital landscapes, fuelling hate and division.”

As climate change batters fragile planet, the lives and livelihoods of future generations were under the gravest threat this world has ever known, he said. This year, the World Press Freedom Day centers on journalism in the face of the environmental crisis. “I honor the journalists around the world who are working to hold polluters accountable for the damage and the devastation. They are driving open debate and critical thinking,” he said.

“By separating facts from lies and propaganda, the journalists are pushing for evidence-based policy decisions on the climate crisis that the world so urgently needs. Their work is fundamental to trigger change, yet it can also be dangerous. Particularly, if they are perceived to hamper the economic interests of the powerful actors engaged in harmful or illegal environmental activities,” he said.

He also said that environmental journalists need stronger commitments from their governments and their employers to protect them. “We need independent, ethical and quality journalism perhaps now more than ever. On the climate crisis – and on all crises – journalists serve as the ultimate allies in human rights. Because in their pursuit of facts, evidence and accountability, we have one of our best hopes to build societies based on truth and trust,” he said.