Government officials claim Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021 is aimed at safeguarding rights of working journalists
President Arif Alvi on Wednesday signed the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021 into law, with lawmakers saying it was aimed at safeguarding the rights of working journalists in line with international standards.
Addressing a ceremony to commemorate the occasion, Alvi said he was pleased to sign the “historic” bill, as journalists had been targeted by “mafias” for the entire history of Pakistan whenever they brought attention to issues of public importance. People pressure journalists to stop them from exposing their mistakes, he added.
Stressing the need to adopt a culture of tolerance for journalists, he claimed that all stakeholders had unanimously agreed that the rights of journalists should be protected. Summarizing the salient features of the act, he said it sought to protect the lives of journalists, adding that both the government and media owners had been tasked with ensuring this.
The act, said Alvi, also protects journalists’ right to maintain anonymous sources, stressing this was essential for maintaining freedom of expression. “The act also provides a comprehensive definition of journalists and media professionals,” he said, adding that it sought to ensure the welfare of journalists through the formation of an independent media commission.
The president alleged that today’s era of social media had made it harder to differentiate between “fake news” and factual reporting, alleging that 60-70 percent of all news items were “fake.” Such media outlets, he said, could also affect the outcome of future elections.
He urged media personnel to take up the responsibility of countering counter fake news, calling on them to practice “responsible journalism” that protected the rights of society. He also advised them against reporting statements out of context, saying this was “unfair.”
Earlier, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the incumbent government would continue to support working journalists and strive to protect their rights. Media owners likewise share responsibility for protecting the lives and jobs of journalists, he added.
Rebutting allegations of media in Pakistan coming under undue pressure—especially in the current regime—he claimed that media in the country was “more free than even first world nations.” He also praised Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, claiming she deserved all credit for the passage of this legislation.
In a brief speech, Mazari claimed the new law was progressive and aimed at protecting journalists and media professionals, including editors and production crew who did not often get much attention from the public.