ISLAMABAD:(APS)May 3,2017: Journalists and media workers across the country have warned the government that any attempt to muffle the Press Freedom in the country will be dealt with a strong resistance from the journalists’ community.
“We will go to any length to protect the freedom of expression and speech if the government takes any action against the Dawn newspaper, its Editor or Reporter,” said PFUJ President Afzal Butt while addressing a gathering of Journalists, who had assembled outside Dawn offices in Islamabad to express their solidarity with their colleagues on the Press Freedom Day,
PFUJ had dedicated the Press Freedom Day to “Dawn” newspaper for upholding the principles of journalism and refusing to succumb under any government pressure to reveal the source of its story.
The Day was observed across Pakistan as well as in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Rallies and protest demonstrations were organized in all the major cities and towns of the country to condemn the government’s directive to APNS to take “disciplinary action” against Dawn newspaper.
Camps were also set up outside Dawn Offices across the country while rallies were also taken out to express solidarity with the newspaper.
In Federal Capital, journalists set up a camp outside Dawn Offices to express their solidarity. Holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans, the protestors raised vociferous slogans against government direction to the APNS.
“JIT (Joint Investigation Team) Report has vindicated Dawn’s stance,” read a placard. “We reject any disciplinary action against Dawn,” read another.
Speaking to the protestors, PFUJ President criticized APNS for its “willful silence” over the issue. “APNS is maintaining a criminal silence on this issue,” he said adding “It should have rejected the government direction the day it received the letter.”
He said that The Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), of which APNS is also a member, has already dismissed government’s case against Dawn newspaper even before the JIT was formed. “After dismissal of this case by PCP, the APNS has no jurisdiction to hear it or take any disciplinary action against it.”
Veteran Journalist and senior PFUJ leader Nasir Zaidi speaking on the occasion recalled that the journalists’ community had given unprecedented sacrifices to achieve freedom of Press. He said that every institution in this country must respect the Press Freedom. “Institutions need to change their mind=set,” he said adding “We are living in 21st century and no country can prosper without freedom of expression.”
Veteran journalist and Member Federal Executive Council of PFUJ, Nasir Malick, warned the government that journalists will not tolerate any bar on the freedom of expression. “We reject any JIT recommendation to take “disciplinary action” against Dawn,” he said. “National Security can only be interpreted by the court and not by any JIT.”
He said it is shameful that a democratic government has resorted to such tactics and “closed Bol Channel” on a day when the entire world is observing Press Freedom Day.
RIUJ acting-President Nasir Hashmi also condemned the government for following an undemocratic path.
RIUJ General Secretary Al Raza Alvi said the journalists will not allow the government to take any action against Dawn. “We stand here today with our colleagues and assure them that we will not allow the government to step on their freedom.”
National Press Club Secretary Imran Yaqub Dhillon said the journalist’ community was united and will do anything possible to protect the rights of the journalists.
RIUJ’s former General Secretary Bilal Dar said that we cannot accept any restriction on the media.
NPC Joint Secretary Abid Abbassi said the fact that journalists across the country are expressing their solidarity with Dawn workers is a proof that this community will not tolerate action against the newspaper. “We will not leave Dawn workers alone, we will fight with them till last.”
Parliamentary Press Association President Qurban Baloch said the members of his association will oppose any move to damage Dawn and will resent any move aimed at that.
Ms Nayyer Ali, member FEC of PFUJ deplored the government action and said instead the government should feel ashamed of calling itself a democratic government when its actions are contrary to that.
Member Governing Body of National Press Club Bashir Usmani said previous governments had also used similar tactics but failed to achieve their purpose. “The government will once again fail to cow down the journalists; community as we are determined to protect our Freedom.”
President of Azad Kashmir Central Union of President Zafeer Baba addressing the protestors said that the journalists of AJK fully oppose the government actions and it was for this reason that they held rallies and protest demonstrations in all the 12 disctricts of Azad Kahmir today. “We consider ourselves a part of you and after leading a rally in Mirpur (Azad Kashmir) I have come here to express my solidarity with my colleagues in Pakistan,” he said adding “You will not find us lacking when the time comes.”