Islamabad-Journalism is being considered as one of the most influential and respectful professions and journalist as the most privileged, civilized, and updated person, because of his awareness and understanding about day-to-day development of national and international issues.

This is a journalist who exposes the corrupt practices of society and the government institutions with his/her human-friendly weapon while putting his/her life in danger.

Perhaps, it is result of journalists’ hard work and dedication that our media houses have achieved a prestigious position among the masses here in the country and abroad in a short period of time.

Today, if the media is being considered as a most reliable and quick medium to highlight public problems and people prefer sharing their basic problems like gas and electricity load shedding, and water shortage through them, rather than complaining to the authorities concerned, because of journalists’ pain. If democracy is prevailing in the country today is because of the journalists’ efforts.

These were the field journalists who gave life to the lawyer movement to stand against a military dictator, leading to the restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhary.

If some corrupt military officers were punished for the first time in the history of Pakistan, efforts of journalists are visible.

 If over three-month long sit-ins of PAT and PTI could not remove an elected prime minister and political parties remained united to strengthen democracy, reports of journalists had significant part.

These are journalists who while putting their lives in danger highlight corruption, nepotism, manhandling and injustice of institutions and society and many of them have sacrificed their lives. Pakistan is being considered as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Here journalists are killed, attacked, injured, harassed and threatened by various actors. 

A number of journalists have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty and several others are serving the nation in a hazardous and risky environment. According to different media reports, over 120 journalists in Pakistan have lost their lives since 2013 and there are many others who live in danger.

Aside from external insecurities, journalists in our country are facing various internal insecurities; at their organizational like absence of policy regarding journalists’ live and financial protection so that they can spend a healthy life with their families and can work in a secure environment.

This is unfortunate that most of the media houses in the country don’t offer proper policy regarding their staff and those who don’t bother to follow their own formulated policy.

At the government level, journalists in Pakistan are also being neglected and Pakistan Media Regularity Authority often seemed helpless in endorsing its decisions.

Although, journalists have a strong network of representative bodies across Pakistan to protect journalists’ rights, but their internal differences are grave enough that they could not play an effective role in resolving journalists’ problems.

In this way, the most ‘privileged and powerful’ community is suffering from many internal and external problems, which demand immediate resolve if we want journalism to prosper.

Some recent media reports stated that the government is considering passing the bill for the safety and protection of journalists. In the prevailing situation, the government’s decision to pass the bill regarding journalists’ safety and security is an appreciable step.  Despite the fact that, the bill was moved by the previous government to address journalists’ problems, but it could not be approved due to reservations regarding sources sharing and some others. 

The hurdle of reservations issue is still prevailing, but one should be positive that the ruling government would be able to approve the bill while removing all the existed reservations through negotiation with all the stakeholders.

The bill is said to be made keeping in view the world best practices to provide health insurance facilities, providing special jackets, all allied facilities such as water, food, and fuel to field journalists during coverage, especially in emergency situations, like natural calamities, accident or natural disaster.

In addition, journalists would be exempted from parking fee, get free medical treatment at the government hospitals and if a journalist’s need protection, local police would ensure the required security.

Journalists in Pakistan work in a risky and poor environment and they don’t have much security at their organization and in such a situation, it is government’s responsibility to ensure their protection from external as well as from internal actors.

Let’s hope the aforementioned bill would soon be approved and journalists would be able to get benefit from the government facilities. Let’s hope our journalists’ representative bodies would be able to remove their internal differences for the sack of flourishing journalist and journalism.

–The writer is a member of staff.