Islamabad - Addressing a seminar on safety of journalists organized by Freedom Network, Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said yesterday that the parliament must legislate for the protection of journalists.

Babar said although the parliament had failed to introduce legislation for across the board accountability, it must not fail in bringing laws to protect media persons.

He said the media persons must avail the two recent opportunities that opened up last week in the Senate to build a legislative framework for their protection and safety and to end the impunity with which they are attacked both by state and non-state actors.

The first initiative is the rejection by the Senate Information Committee of government draft Protection of Journalists Bill for not addressing the central issue of safety and deciding to make another one in consultation with all stake holders in line with the UN principles and best international practices.

Second entails the investigations entrusted to the Interior Committee in the brutal attack recently on The News reporter Ahmad Noorani and other journalists in the past. The professional media bodies must make their voice heard at these two forums, he added.

“The parliament may have failed in making legislating for across the board accountability of all but it must not fail in making legislation for the protection of media persons. It will be a disaster if this Parliamentary Committee meets the fate of Committee on Accountability law,” he said.

Babar said the legal framework for the protection of media persons should be based on recognition of four principles. “The first principle is that ending impunity of crimes against them and prosecution of cases through Special Public Prosecutor is the state responsibility,” he said.

The second principle is that the media houses are responsible for special insurance for working in conflict zones, training of media persons before sending them to conflict zones and not forcing part timers in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and Balochistan to dangers, he added.

Third principle entails the creation of a Special Safety and Protection Fund for the rehabilitation of media persons and their families who come to harm in conflict zones, the lawmaker said.

The fourth and last is that attacks on journalists should be properly catalogued and reports of investigations in the attack be made public, he said.

Babar said the law had been amended and now inquiry commissions can publish their reports without seeking approval of the government.

“This exposure and transparency will help fight impunity,” he said adding the media persons must have basic knowledge of working in a hostile environment.

He lamented that no record was available of the judicial inquiry carried out in the murder of tribal journalist Hayataullah over a decade ago and called for pursuing investigations in the matter.

“It is a challenge to legislate protection of journalists in a broken criminal justice system. It is far more daunting to hold accountable those who assault journalists by a parliament that cannot hold accountable the so called sacred cows through an across the board accountability law,” the legislator said.