ISLAMABAD - The media fraternity boycotted Senate’s Monday proceedings continuing their protest campaign calling for arrest of criminals involved in killing of hundreds of journalists in violence and targeted attacks, to ensure the rights of the working journalists.

As the House initiated its business, the journalists sitting in Press Gallery walked out to join a Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist-led sit-in camp pitched outside the Parliament House.

Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari adjourned the proceedings for the day after the Leader of the House, Jahangir Badar, failed to bring them back. Mr Badar, while informing the House about their key demands, suggested to the chair to adjourn the sitting as a mark of solidarity with the media. The House remained in session for around half-an-hour.

The journalists called for reasonable security, implementation of the 7th Wage Board Award, recompilation of 8th Wage Board Award, establishment of a Journalists Victim Fund and creation of a special fund by the federal and provincial governments for the families of the victim journalists equal to that offered to law enforcers. They demanded that owners of media outlets be made to pay Rs2.5 million to the heirs of a journalist martyred in the line of duty, besides looking after his/her children, Mr Badar told the House as he announced to join the sit-in camp and exhorted other members to follow the suit. Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP said that all the demands of the journalists were just and both the federal and provincial governments should take steps for their resolution. He asked the government to link the advertisement to the media outlets with the release of salaries to the workers.

Senator Raja Zafarul Haq told the House that 95 journalists had been killed in a short a span of time in the line of their duties. “The country has become dangerous for the media persons. Parliament should provide constitutional cover for ensuring welfare and compensation to the media persons falling victim to violence,” he added.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed observed the journalists’ demands were well-grounded because they were not properly compensated by their organisations in terms of salary and compensation for damages or deaths. He said the Sahara Insurance Company under the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution had been directed to extend insurance schemes to the journalist community.

“The scheme will provide insurance facility to journalists and photojournalists up to Rs1 million in case of death.” Senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain seconded the opinion of Mr Sayed, saying journalists from FATA should also be included to this scheme. He said the Ministry of Human Resource Development should approve the facility of insurance to the media-persons.

Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari drew the attention of the House to the grave reality that equipment of cameramen were insured but they themselves were ignored by their employers. He stressed that insurance of media persons should be made mandatory.

Bokhari ruled the government should take steps to address the issues of journalists. He also asked the media owners to stop exploitation of workers and pay their salaries as per the rules.

Earlier, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Rehman staged a walkout, calling the imposition of Governor Rule in Balochistan undemocratic. “The coalition government of Balochistan has been removed in an undemocratic and autocratic way. We demand the president lift the governor rule,” Senator Maulana Hamdullah of the JUI-F said, on a point of order.

He said the governor rule was not a solution to the problems. The chief secretary, inspector general and other heads of law enforcement agencies are still working.

Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch said the imposition of the governor rule was necessary as the provincial government had utterly failed to improve the law and order situation. He said the provincial government had not been dismissed but only suspended for a period of two months. He said the record of Parliament could be checked that the leaders of coalition government of Balochistan had demanded strict action from the federal government to improve law and order situation in the province.