ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday announced an endowment fund of Rs. 200 million for welfare of journalists and to provide financial assistance to families of martyred and injured journalists, for medical facilities and for marriage of daughters of media personnel.Addressing the oath taking ceremony of office bearers of National Press Club here, the Prime Minister said the government will also bear all expenses for construction of a magnificent building of National Press Club in the federal capital.Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan and President National Press Club Afzal Butt also addressed the oath taking ceremony, which was attended by a large number of journalists.
The Prime Minister announced a grant of Rs. 10 million for National Press Club and said the grant will be provided to the press club every year.Prime Minister Gilani also announced grant of Rs. one million for the treatment of journalist Naeemullah and Rs. 500,000 for disabled cameraman Israr Ahmed.
Gilani recalled that PPP leaders and workers along with journalist community struggled for the restoration of democracy, independence of judiciary and freedom of media after the imposition of emergency by Musharraf regime.He said it is owing to democracy that the government and the Prime Minister gladly listen to criticism of the media.Prime Minister said the PPP government abolished all black laws that put restrictions on the press, and now no newspaper, magazine,radio or television channel is banned for expressing difference with the government.No journalist, poet, intellectual or writer is involved in a case or put behind bars for opposing the government and there is no political prisoner in the country, he added.
He said the procedure for gaining a declaration for a newspaper or magazine has been made very easy and solid steps have been taken for encouraging regional newspapers.Gilani said work was speedily continuing on Benazir Bhutto Media University for education and training of journalists and they are also getting opportunities to get training in other countries.Gilani said steps were being taken to provide an enabling environment and facilities to press clubs across the country and National News Agency “APP” has been given the status of an autonomous body.He said the government was always ready to ensure implementation of the decisions of wage board award.
The government will extend cooperation for resolving housing issues of journalists and will provide generous financial assistance to elderly and sick journalists, he added.The Prime Minister said the government was pursuing the path of cooperation with the journalists and this is extension of the new culture of consensus building in national politics which has created positive effects in the country.
He said the government desires that the journalists should express their thoughts and opinion with full independence, in a carefree manner and with confidence.However, Gilani said the journalist community should be responsible and act with care in matters of national interest and security of the country.
He said Pakistan was facing the tendencies and dangers of terrorism and extremism and problems of law and order which was affecting economy, creating apprehensions in minds of people and negatively affecting image of the country in the international community.Responsibilities of journalists have increased and they have to help provide a safe and secure environment to the next generation, he added.
Gilani said the nation expects from the journalists that they should not make news out of their wishes, keep in mind objectivity during reporting, respect social and cultural values and do not encourage provocation, hatred, discrimination and tension and keep intact their position of impartiality so they are not considered a tool or spokesman of any political party.
The Prime Minister said the history of democracy in Pakistan is incomplete without journalism and the two are inseparable.
The journalists braved lashings, torture of jails, hardship of exile, economic difficulties and mental suffering for restoration of democracy and protection of democratic traditions.Despite all these trials and tribulations, there was no wavering in the courage, determination and steadfastness of the journalists, he said.
“The whole nation is proud of the courage and resilience of journalists.”Gilani said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is an enthusiastic supporter of freedom of expression and independence of press.He said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto expressed full solidarity with the media workers of Pakistan Times and Imroze during the dictatorship of Ayub era and Benazir Bhutto went to the protest camp of journalists in Lahore to support their cause.
The government was continuing with the traditions set by PPP leaders, he added.Paying tributes to journalists for their services in creation of Pakistan, Prime Minister Gilani said journalists were instrumental in raising political consciousness of Muslims of sub-continent and in giving a new perspective to the Pakistan Movement.Father of the Nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was aware of the power and influence of the press and he was the moving spirit behind publication of many newspapers and magazines, he said.
Gilani said after its creation, Pakistan faced political difficulties and dictatorship tried to crush democracy and suppress voice of the people, but the journalist community used its pen as a sword and numerous poets, writers and intellectuals encouraged and guided the masses.The democracy loving people showed the door to four dictators and rendered exemplary sacrifices for the restoration and stability of democracy, he added.Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said Prime Minister is the real champion of cause of free press and PPP government gives media great regard and completely believes in freedom of speech.
A free media is guarantee of democracy and is the fourth pillar of a modern state and Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees rights of media.She said that the credit of abolishing black laws of PEMRA goes to this government.She said that the government would continue to work for improving working conditions of journalists and make efforts to move ahead on the issue of Wage Board Award.
The Minister said the government would implement laws which guarantee access of information to every citizen.She said the government did not impose any restriction on the press but asked journalist bodies to prepare a code of conduct and to redress any complaints of the public about media organizations.
Dr. Firdous said the government would fulfil its responsibility to provide a conducive environment to media practitioners in performance of their professional duties.She urged media to play its role in curbing the tendencies of terrorism and extremism.She said that a social media cell run by officers of Information Ministry would begin working this month to get feedback on the performance of the government.President National Press Club Afzal Butt, in his welcome address highlighted the problems faced by the working journalists including financial difficulties, security hazards as well as non-availability of health and life insurance facilities.
He mentioned the contribution and sacrifices of media during the struggle for restoration of democracy and independence of judiciary after the imposition of emergency in Musharraf era.He sought the government’s assistance in resolving problems of journalist community.
Afzal Butt also urged the government to take measures to ensure implementation of 7th Wage Award and announcement of the 8th Wage Award.The Prime Minister administered oath to the elected office bearers of the National Press Club.Secretary Information and Broadcasting Taimur Azmat Osman and senior officials of the ministry were also present at the ceremony. – APP