Government committed to protecting journalists: Sherry Rehman

December 30th, 2008 - 5:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Dec 30 (IANS) The Pakistani government is committed to the protection of journalists and there would be no violation of media freedom and independence during its term, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman has said. “The fundamental difference between an authoritarian system and a democratic structure is that democracies endeavour to strengthen institutions that support a representative order,” Online news agency quoted her as saying on a report analysing media freedom in Pakistan in 2008.

“At any given point, the state-media relations are determined by the state’s commitment to the fundamental and democratic rights of the citizens,” the minister maintained.

“Unfortunately, in the past years, the element of distrust has largely dominated the state-media equation,” Rehman added.

Noting that the government was “committed to dismantle structures that support violence against media for political gains”, the minister said: “We wish to build trust between institutions and one of the most important steps in this regard is the revocation of all anti-media laws and reiteration of our media freedom commitment through policy actions.”

According to Rehman, Pakistan “cannot afford” to allow “regressive forces” to “influence and manipulate the systems of the state.

“It is our collective responsibility to fight the elements that seek to undermine our democratic aspirations. The Pakistani nation has paid a heavy price for the restoration of democracy and the state as well as the media must counter forces that have repeatedly trampled our constitutional rights,” the minister added.

According to the annual report of a media research and development NGO, 12 journalists were killed and over 201 cases of abuses against the media were recorded in Pakistan in 2008.

The Intermedia report released here Sunday said the most dangerous place to practice journalism in the country was Punjab, with a total of 64 cases of violations against the media recorded in the province.

The next most dangerous place was Islamabad with a total of 51 violations, followed by 39 in Sindh, 22 in NWFP, 16 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and 14 in Balochistan.

The statistics also reveal that during 2008, on an average every month one journalist died, more than three were arrested or abducted, six were injured in assaults, about 10 were threatened or intimidated, nearly two media organisations were issued gag orders and overall more than 17 cases of violations against the media occurred each month.

Three journalists each were killed in violence in Punjab and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), two each in Balochistan and Sindh and one each in Islamabad and FATA.

A separate case was recorded of a journalist based in Punjab who committed suicide because of financial problems.

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