Journalists again boycott Senate on Jang Group issue

By Raja Zulfikar

ISLAMABAD: Journalists boycotted the proceedings of the Senate and walked out of the press gallery to protest against the victimisation of the Jang Group of Newspapers. They were followed by the Combined Opposition, including the MQM, which also staged a token walkout on Friday

The government's representatives, who came to the gallery to urge the journalists to end their walkout, disassociated themselves from the entire situation. Minister of State for Water and Power Haleem Siddiqui said: "This is an individual act, and has nothing to do with the government." He was immediately asked by all the journalists to say it on the record from the floor of the Senate. The House, however, was adjourned soon afterwards.

The journalists did not return to House as a mark of protest against what they called was the government-sponsored coercion and intimidation unleashed against the management and workers of the Jang Group of Newspapers. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the anti-workers policies of the government," said C R Shamsi, PFUJ Senior Vice President.

Fouzia Shahid, ex-President Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) and Faraz Hashmi Secretary General (RIUJ), said the transcripts of the taped conversation between the Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rahman and Senator Saifur Rehman had made it clear beyond any doubt that the latter was pursuing an anti-worker policy. "What more evidence can there be to establish that what the senator is doing is a clear act of destroying institutions and curbing the press freedom."

"What right does the senator have as to who should and who should not be working in a newspaper?", C R Shamsi asked, adding, "What is happening today has not happened even in the dark days of dictatorship."

Ministers Haleem Siddiqui and Tehmina Daultana and senators Rafiq Rijwana, Sadaqat Jatoi and Akram Zaki tried in vain to convince the journalists to end their protest. Tehmina Daultana said the issue could be resolved through dialogue and it was not the government's policy to harass journalists. None from the government's team, however, defended the acts of Senator Saifur Rehman.

The News International Pakistan