Human Rights and Media Coverage
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Eliana van de Craats
L.L.M in B. and Trade Law
Human Resouces Consultant
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Human Rights in Pakistan
About human rights of a Media professional and whether should we accept that Media professionals would be treated differently in the different countries in the world:
It is true that some countries have restrictions to Human Rights Laws and although the UN and all other Human Rights institutions try to make it accessible to every human being, one should bear in mind that injustices happen everyday. Therefore, we have a long way to go in order to prevent injustices to happen. It is not an easy task, it is an everyday exercise that we all need to endeavour everyday and not always with a happy-ending.
Nevertheless, if your country has signed the Universal human rights conventions, but in practice misinterpret, limit or abuse freedom of expression, one should have the right to challenge these laws or to request a changing of the laws that limit the right to provide citizens to have access to information.
All media professionals, no matter if they are bloggists or certified journalists, no matter the medium where the information is been published, if written or oral, we all have the same rights to disseminate information.
This is what the United Nations has to say about it:
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the right of all people to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Let us reaffirm our commitment to this bedrock principle of democracy, development and peace. (source: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sgsm13536.doc.htm).
“When Governments repress their people and shield themselves from scrutiny, press freedom is among the most powerful vehicles for exposing misdeeds and upholding public trust. When people face discrimination and marginalization, access to media can give them voice and create a shared awareness of their plight. And in an era of pressing global challenges, the free exchange of information and ideas through the media can connect people and countries in networks of common cause.” (source: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sgsm13536.doc.htm).
I suggest that you as representative of Journalists in Pakistan, collect histories and signatures of Journalists in your country and send a petition or a video, addressing the issues of human rights directlyt to the attention of Mrs. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.
“Media professionals and owners must be allowed to carry out their work freely and without fear. Only under such conditions can the media fulfil its responsibilities, contributing to democracy and good governance,” she stated. Irina Bokova-UNESCO Director-General. Bokova. (source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40984&Cr=journalist&Cr1=)
The situation in Pakistan
The country's law on blasphemy has been used against journalists.
Most democratic countries in the world have abolished any law related to BLASPHEMY. However, Morocco and other countries have requested the UN to create a resolution to approve a global blasphemy law, in the name of religion and to prevent religious discrimination. Which is a dangerous thing to think of. In Pakistan, such law is very popular and it is still in place. Execution is the penalty for those who infringe Pakistani blasphemy law, a nightmare for people from other non-islamic religians in that country. The same applies to other Islamic countries. In the UK, it was in force until 2008. In the US such a law would be inconstitutional.
Pakistan is a very diverse country, with an almost Homeric level of conflicting issues regarding almost all kind of human subjects. If for one side, it is a country with one of the oldest civilizations and cultures in the world, it is a country which is in desperate need of attention from international communities. Pakistan needs all of us to help the country and its people to adjust to a modern society, trying to find and maintain a balance between its ancient traditions and the rights of its own citizens in a modern world.
Journalists in Pakistan are the heroes of our time. They will help the country in challenging times to find enlightment and the balance needed to unite it is separatist society. Therefore, the Pakistani government should help and protect them from all kind of injustices.
Therefore, the first step to make universal human rights be respected in Pakistan is to abolish its blaspheymy laws.
I think it would be wise to write a petition to the Pakistani Parliament with a copy to the United Nations and request international Journalists all over the world to support movements that reinforce the need to abolish the Blasphemy laws in place in that country.
Freedom of religion as much as freedom of expression are basic human rights. As long as governments think or abuse of their religion majority to undermine its people, there is no respect for human rights in a broader sense. If those countries that have adopted blasphemy laws, have also signed the Universal declaration of human rights, we should expect them to obey the convention entirely not only parts of it. One might be able to measure the level of democracy in a country by the respect they have for the profession of Journalism and of course, respecting freedom and access to information of all its citizens.
Freedom of expression, is intended to protect individuals, not religion institutions. For more information of which are human rights and which are the human rights laws in place at the moment, please visit this website:
Please see the opinion of the United Nations official Navi Pillay, in regarding to murders and murderers in Pakistan:
“These murders are a tragedy for Pakistan and those who envision a future for the country centred on human rights,” said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement. “I hope the Government of Pakistan will not only hold the killers to account, but reflect on how it can more effectively confront the extremism which is poisoning Pakistani society.” (source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=37659&Cr=pakistan&Cr1=)
It is above all important that Journalists in Pakistan sign a common pact rejecting any kind of abuse or infringement to universal human rights, and that includes, putting freedom of expression above their religion convictions if they do want to respect human rights. In order to have freedom of religion, one should learn to respect individuals first.
“Ms. Pillay appealed to all Pakistanis to condemn the latest killing, saying she was appalled that a number of political and religious leaders, legal professionals and media commentators in Pakistan condoned, or even welcomed, the assassination of Salman Taseer in January.”
Please watch the daughter of a victim of the blasphemy law in Pakistan and her appeal to the UN. Click the link to hear Shehrbano’s message to the within this video from Human Rights First:
I will be happy to sign any petition to your government or the United Nations or to Journalist communities around the world if you need, to support the freedom of Journalists in your country.
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