Pakistan: Sindh Assembly passes bill to keep journalists safe31 May, 2021
A landmark piece of legislation, the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Bill 2021 was passed unanimously by the Sindh Assembly on May 28. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ) commend this breakthrough and the initiative taken by journalist unions, human rights groups, and lawmakers in the Sindh province to protect the rights of media workers.
The journalist protections bill was drafted in consultation with journalist representative organisations, including the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
The bill attempts to ensure the protection of media workers in the Sindh province and envisions the creation of a “Commission for Protection of Journalists and Other Media Workers” to proactively protect journalists under the new law. The commission is comprised of government officials and “non-official members”, including PFUJ representatives. It is responsible for producing an annual report on “the State of Safety and Security of Journalists and Media Practitioners in the Province of Sindh”.
The bill also requires employers to provide adequate insurance and training for media workers “at risk of being attacked, injured or killed because of their work”, it enshrines a protection against disclosing professional sources of information, and introduces a range of requirements for the government to ensure the protection of journalists. The government is now required to provide legal assistance for the protection of journalists and the bill seeks to ensure laws related to counter terrorism or security are not arbitrarily used to hinder the work of journalists.
According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020-21, Truth in a time of contagion: The viral frontline nine journalists were killed in Pakistan in the last year, including one in Sindh Province on March 18, 2021.
The PFUJ said: “The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) admires the Sindh Government for the land mark Journalist Protection Bill 2021 and that it will be implemented in true spirit. President PFUJ GM Jamali and Secretary General Rana Muhammad Azeem said that unions of Sindh and PFUJ has put in all out efforts in drafting this bill. The PFUJ urged the Sindh government to immediately announce the Commission to implement this bill so that the journalists could benefit this Bill accordingly.”
The IFJ said: “The passing of the Sindh journalist protections bill is a significant milestone in Pakistan when it comes to ending impunity for crimes against journalists. The IFJ hopes that the passing of this bill will allow for good faith consultation between the government and journalists’ unions to ensure the protection of journalists now and for years to come.”