Commonwealth Press Union announces full support for Jang Group

By our correspondent

LONDON: A strong message of support for the Jang Group of Publications from the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) was voiced in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The letter, also forwarded to the Secretary General of The Commonwealth and The Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, reminded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that his country was a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which stated unequivocally that everyone had the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right included freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The letter signed by the CPU, Press Freedom Director called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to influence his government to cease harassment against the press. The Commonwealth Press Union which is committed to watching for and opposing matters that might affect the freedom and interests of the Press throughout the Commonwealth, wrote to record its "increasing concern" that the government of Pakistan was "mounting a concerted campaign to curb the independent press in Pakistan."

Over the past months, observed the CPU, all the traditional means of exerting pressure had been applied to several independent newspapers including: random income tax audits; raids by intelligence agencies; stopping of government advertising (which can occupy 50 percent of the revenue for some publications); forced dismissal of journalists; restrictions on newsprint.

"Publications including Newsline, Friday Times and the The Muslim have been targeted but it is your government's behaviour towards the Jang Group, the country's largest privately owned media group, which is of particular concern," the CPU pointed out. Commenting on the government's argument against the Jang Group of Publications the CPU maintained: "Although we accept that tax evasion is widespread in Pakistan it is noticeable that newspapers that support the Government are not being investigated."

All these measures, said the CPU, represented an attempt to "control the independent media by undermining their economic viability and certainly constitute violations of press freedom." The situation regarding press freedom in Pakistan was "poor" and by targeting independent papers, the government was perpetuating an "already difficult situation," CPU, Press Freedom Director observed.

February 07, 1999
The News International Pakistan