ISLAMABAD, Oct 15, 2011 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani urged the media to play pivotal role to dispel the false and misleading impressions, being portrayed in the world about Pakistan. Addressing the concluding session of conference on “Attacks on Journalists and Freedom of Media” organized by Pakistan Media Commission here at a local hotel, the Prime Minister said, “The media can clear the wrong perceptions and supplement the government’s efforts in creating a better image of the country.”
The Prime Minister said media code of ethics should be observed by the journalists in the reporting of conflict and terror incidents. He said intelligent and sound use of media can play an important role in resolving internal and external conflicts and inevitably addressing the security and development needs of the country.
The Prime Minister said media has, undoubtedly, emerged as the most significant element of national power and has moved close to the heartbeat of the nation.
“It must now realize its responsibilities towards people and the State”, he added.
He said media should raise professional standards, observe media ethics and agree to a framework, which should be evolved through consensus among all relevant media organizations.
The Prime Minister said, “today the country is going through the most critical and challenging period of the history and media is undoubtedly playing a significant role in the current challenging scenario, specifically in the fight against terrorism.”
He said media is also supporting the democratic government’s efforts to curb the menace of terrorism, which has emerged as the single most taxing challenge for the country.
The Prime Minister said presence of an independent, progressive, robust and vibrant media has added a positive dimension to the national pride, by keeping open a window of hope and optimism.
He said the risks and threats faced by the nation and media are of same proportion.
“Pakistani Media, today, is fully conversant with the imperatives of national security policy and is qualified to provide support to the government for achieving these vital objectives,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the government also wholeheartedly recognizes media’s strength and power and committed to working together with media for realizing national goals.
Gilani said Pakistani media enjoyed unprecedented freedom and all the draconian laws of the dictator, which curtailed media freedom, were repealed by the government as per the commitment.
The amendments introduced in the PEMRA Ordinance-2002 and Press Laws on November 03, 2007 have been revoked and no intrusion in the freedom of expression, has been allowed, he said.
The Prime Minister said, “Our government has shown exceptional respect for media freedom, in plurality of views.”
He said the government will ensure that citizens ‘Right to Know’ law is preserved at all costs so that the people could get real information through media.
The Prime Minister said, “We have never believed in the culture of press advice, censorship and control of content or information.”
He said the democratic government has never stifled media freedom and no journalist, poet or writer has been put behind bars for opposing the government’s policies, nor have any restrictions been imposed on TV channels or newspapers.
Referring to the achievements of the government, the Prime Minister said the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), established under a law in 2002, is now complete and has become a functional body.
He hoped that the Press Council will play a role of a bridge between common masses and media institutions and it will be a non-partisan, independent and autonomous body which will be compatible with the regional and global institutions. The democratic Government is providing maximum facilities to journalists, he added.
The Prime Minister said the government has made utmost efforts to provide security to the media persons and protect the lives of journalists and their families, but in the wake of acts of terrorism, there have been unfortunate incidents. He said journalists have sacrificed their lives in their line of duty and government fully realizes its responsibility towards their families.
The Prime Minister specially mentioned those journalists who reported on sensitive issues and were martyred during this year, including Faisal Qureshi, Saleem Shahzad, Wali Khan Babar, Saifullah Khan, and Nasrullah Khan Afridi.
He said the institutional mechanism for the protection of journalists against violence and threats, is being devised.
The Prime Minister also mentioned establishment of Endowment Fund of Rs. 200 Million for the welfare of journalists and the affected families of journalists who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
He said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has finalized regulations to operate this Fund by taking all stakeholders on board.
He said another proposal for the establishment of the Endowment Fund for journalists under the guardianship of South Asia Free Media Association is being considered, and announced Rs. 30 million for the endowment fund.
The Prime Minister mentioned the establishment of Judicial Commission to investigate the murder of Saleem Shahzad who was brutally murdered and assured that all necessary measures will be taken to implement the recommendations of the Commission which is working with full facilitation from the government.
He said, “We will not spare any culprit who is involved in the killing of media persons. We are committed to dispense justice to the journalists, killed in the line of duty or got disabled.”
The Prime Minister said capacity building of media is also on the agenda of the present government and efforts are underway for training of journalists for reporting in the conflict zones. He said Ministry of Information will extend the maximum support to arrange training courses for journalists in Conflict Reporting in collaboration with their employers.
Gilani said the upcoming Media University project of the Ministry envisages education and training programmes for journalists in various specialized fields of media to bring them at par with International media.
He said that Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been directed to evolve an insurance scheme for the journalists who work in the conflict regions and cover conflict.
He also appealed to the media owners to provide insurance and risk coverage to their employees.
Prime Minister Gilani said it is top priority of the government to resolve the problems of the working journalists.
“The government desires that journalists should express their opinion without fear or favour and the government would continue to improve working conditions of media persons,” he said.
The Prime Minister assured that the government will continue to support endeavors of journalists in defense of freedom of expression, protection of rights of journalists and promotion of high professional standards and observance of media ethics.
Senior journalists and representatives of Pakistan Media Commission including Zia-ud-Din, Imtiaz Alam and Nusrat Javed also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the problems confronted by media as well as other issues.
The conference also adopted a resolution, that resolved to defend freedom of expression and safeguard journalists from increasing threats to their lives and the intimidation and obstructions they face while performing their professional duties in an environment of overwhelming intolerance, terrorism, extremism and impunity.
(Dr Shahid Qureshi brother of Faisal Qureshi and friends and family are thankful to the prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani for the support)