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Law on journalists' working conditions supports press freedom, should not be repealed despite newspaper owners' demands, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 24 June 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Opposes Bid to Repeal Pakistan Law on Journalists' Working Conditions

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully endorses the stand taken by its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in opposing a demand by Pakistan's apex organisation of newspaper owners for the repeal of the Newspaper Employees' (Conditions of Service) Act.

"The Act is an important safeguard for workers' rights and journalism as a profession, and the IFJ is concerned at moves by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) to repeal it," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Although the record of implementation leaves much to be desired, the Act is a fallback guarantee of the dignity of journalism and, by implication, the freedom of the press."

The IFJ calls on the APNS and its president, Hameed Haroon, to honour the law rather than seek its repeal or "substantial amendment".

The IFJ disagrees with the APNS assertion that "the fundamental rights guaranteed to the newspaper establishments under the Constitution are being contravened under the present law".

According to information made available by the PFUJ, the constitutional validity of the Act has already been dealt with by Pakistan's Supreme Court. Judicial bodies in other countries with similar laws have also determined that there is nothing in the laws that infringes on press freedom guarantees.

Consistent with its position that there can be no press freedom where journalists live in conditions of poverty, corruption or fear, the IFJ calls on the APNS to suspend its effort to seek the repeal of a law that was passed virtually unanimously by Pakistan's Parliament.

"The newspaper owners' refusal to honour the law and to implement successive wage awards made under its stipulations are the main impediments to growth and quality improvement in the print media in Pakistan," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The IFJ urges the APNS to enter into a constructive dialogue with the PFUJ and other unions of newspaper workers to address practical ways to implement the statutory wage awards for journalists and newspaper employees.

"The IFJ recalls the role played by the PFUJ in the recent campaign for press freedom in Pakistan and appreciates the spirit of cooperation that was displayed then by the APNS," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"That spirit of cooperation needs to be carried forward to ensure a fair deal for journalists in Pakistan and a new beginning for press freedom in the country."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries.

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