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Opinion

Pak media on a short leash

Monitor News Bureau

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As World Press Freedom Day was observed, many Pakistani media persons and public-spirited citizens feel they have little to celebrate. Addressing this year’s theme, ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law’ appears to them an almost impossible task.

The leash by which the Pakistan media is held has been getting shorter and shorter over the past few years. What it has gone through since May 1, 2017, can be gauged from the report by Freedom Network Pakistan.

At least 157 cases of attacks on the media were documented — one attack every second day. These incidents included the killing of five journalists, abductions, physical attacks, arrests and various forms of harassment.

 

As 35 per cent of all attacks were reported from Islamabad, that city emerged as the most dangerous place in the country for journalists.

TV was the most frequently targeted medium in the country, as 85 of the 137 journalists attacked were working for television.

Twenty instances of attacks on media houses were recorded.

In 39pc of all the attacks, the victims or their families suspected the state functionaries were somehow responsible.

The other suspects were political parties, religious actors, criminal elements and unidentified sources of threats.

Earlier, on April 21, the same organisation declared in a ‘press freedom alert’ that the media was under increased censorship. This was unacceptable, said Freedom Network Pakistan, as it violated the people’s fundamental right to know. It recalled the statement by editors, journalists and other media persons, and disseminated through Reporters Sans Frontières, which said: “We, the undersigned, working journalists, editors and media persons, express our serious concern and condemn the ongoing curbs on freedom of expression in Pakistan. Beginning with a crackdown against selected media groups and banning the broadcasts of various channels, there is now enhanced pressure on all media houses to refrain from covering certain rights-based movements.”

It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Pakistan media finds itself micromanaged in an unprecedented manner and prevented by fear from carrying out its primary function of informing the people, especially in view of political parties’ indifference to the media’s plight. The people are thus being deprived of their right to know on the eve of a general election when they need greater freedom of opinion, expression and information and not less of it. This, because it has been universally recognised that “freedom of expression and freedom of information are vital to a democratic society and are essential for its progress and welfare and for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

In many countries, restrictions on the media are justified as necessary in the interest of national security. Such actions are taken either by weak governments that wish to cover up their wrongdoings or authoritarian regimes that for obvious reasons repudiate their citizens’ basic rights and freedoms. Without going into a debate as to whether Pakistan falls into either of the two categories, efforts may be made to discover the possibilities of protecting national security without imposing undesirable curbs on the media’s and the citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information.

Pakistan’s media regulators and journalists both may seek guidance from the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (UN Doc, E/CN.4/1996/39). The objective of these principles, adopted in 1995 by experts on international law, national security and human rights, is to “promote a clear recognition of the limited scope of restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of information that may be imposed in the interest of national security, so as to discourage them from using the pretext of national security to place unjustified restrictions on the exercise of these freedoms”.

While conceding that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information could be restricted on specific grounds, as established in international law, and for the protection of national security, the first principle says that no restriction on the ground of national security may be imposed “unless the government can demonstrate that the restriction is prescribed by law and is necessary in a democratic society to protect a legitimate national security interest. The burden of demonstrating the validity of the restriction rests with the government”.

The principles define the concepts involved in the debate. All restrictions in the interest of national security should be prescribed by law which “must be accessible, unambiguous, drawn narrowly and with precision so as to enable individuals to foresee whether a particular action is unlawful”. The law must also provide for safeguards against the abuse and judicial scrutiny of any restriction.

A restriction in legitimate national security interest must have a genuine purpose and demonstrable effect of protecting a “country’s existence or its territorial integrity … against an external military threat or an internal threat such as incitement to violent overthrow of the government”. No such restriction can be justified if the purpose is to protect a government from embarrassment, or exposure of wrongdoing, or to conceal information about its public institutions, or to entrench a particular ideology, or to suppress industrial unrest.

For countries like Pakistan, Principle 10 has special relevance as it obliges governments to prevent private groups or individuals from interfering unlawfully with the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, and to punish such interference.

Further, all remedies including habeas corpus must be available to persons charged with security-related crimes. They should be tried by genuinely independent judges. The principles explicitly bar a civilian’s trial by a military court or tribunal.

These principles have acquired special importance in the post 9/11 world. They do not deny the government’s prerogative to restrict freedom of expression in order to protect national security, but they insist on a balance between the interest of the state and the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and information. Maintenance of such a balance is vitally necessary to enable Pakistan to complete its transition to a functional democracy.


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Opinion

SRO 202 against the basic rights of employees

Monitor News Bureau

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By Bhat Zaieem

The youth of J&K have consistently raised the voices against the anti-youth job policy in vogue for the last four years. But it seems, no one in the administration is bothered to even listen to their genuine concern. The youth of J&K have always suffered due to the absurd and unjustifiable policies of J&K government. A similar iniquitous policy was framed in June 2015 by then PDP-BJP Government which has adversely affected the dignity, honour and social setup of employees recruited under it. SRO 202 is a gross injustice to employees who are facing the brunt of such policies while government has absolutely no satisfactory reason to issue such orders.

The scene of the policy is that a candidate selected for a government service will get only basic pay for the first five years of his or her service. They will be devoid of their right of getting different allowances during this period. Also, they will not be entitled to New Pension Scheme (NPS) benefits for the timeframe.

 

It is most unfortunate that the youth who have doctorate, post graduate and professional degrees are petted against such policies as a reward to the hard work of their academic career spanning over 20 years. Such employees get selected through JKPSC and JKSSB where the the success rate is just 2-5%.

Making the policy selective for non-gazetted cadre posts and certain gazetted posts shows its unequal behaviour, absurdness and nonsensicalness. Some government institutes like Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Kashmir University are not enforcing any rule of the SRO 202. There is no uniformity at all. But irony is that rich are made richer and poor poorer. They just doubled the salary of MLAs at the same time to ensure maximum turnout for themselves and leaving the issue of working staff brooding over the shelf.

Leaving the efficient youth in trouble for their sake is no less than a turmoil. And I remember when the candidates would frequently pressurise the government to scrap the policy, they would utterly eulogise that it was meant to curb the financial crunch in J&K and where not you already acknowledged with the terms and conditions of your job. Such imprudent and hypocritical character of policy makers was always disheartening besides taking  off their belief on democratic institutions.

The policy has inflicted vigour of corruption and nepotism in the minds of new employees. The mark of disloyalty with their service will touch new heights and they do have a solid reason for it and that is ignorance of the government. When they are not treated with equal pay as their old counterparts, the have started the other mediums of earning on the same table. ‘Right to Equality’ has been shattered deeply. The Supreme Court judgment ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ has been rendered meaningless with negligible application here. In short this policy has been a bruise over the policies of the governance. Moreover, according to the rules of this ordinance any recruitment made under it must be completed within a period of three months and appointment order to be issued within 15 days from the date of issuance of selection list. The government posts are supposed to be filled on fast-track basis. But they failed here too as almost all the selections done under this policy took more than one and half years on average to complete and appointment orders also were issued accordingly with same sluggish speed and took two to three months for formal appointment orders for all the advertisements.

Coming to the financial burden, it is very meagre almost negligible with respect to total financial implications of J&K. Till now merely ten thousand appointments have been made under this policy. With implementation of seventh pay commission, the difference in salary between SRO 202 employees and their Non SRO 202 counterparts has been severely reduced and is ranging between four thousand and six thousand. So increasing these few thousand rupees for some ten thousand employees has very less financial implications for the government.

The government must come to the rescue of the career of faithful and hardworking employees and the removal of this policy is the only way out. Both students and impacted employees expect that Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu who is talking much of corruption, transparency and equal opportunities for all will come to their rescue.

The author is a teacher in Department of Education and can be reached at [email protected]

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Opinion

Let education be never hampered

Monitor News Bureau

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By Abid Hussain Rather

As it is said education leads us from darkness to light and nowadays right to elementary education is fundamental right of every human being. Educational standard of a nation depicts its developmental level. When we have a look at the history we see that only those civilizations were able to progress where knowledge was given first priority and those civilizations where other things dominated to knowledge vanished within the corridors of time. It is the education which moulds the behavior of man, the social animal and makes him superior to the other creatures in the universe. It is said that educational institutes are more sacred to religious places because these educational institutes lead us to the religious places and teach us how to pray. If a nation wants to develop and progress it should always try to create and maintain an atmosphere which is most conducive for education and education system should always be given the first priority. Educational processes and educational institutes should be spared and always kept away from the dirty games of politics and other likely things.

Our valley, though famously known as paradise on earth, has always seen political and climatic instability which have turned this paradise into hell and made the lives of people miserable here. Keeping the climatic instability aside which is natural in cause and on which we human beings have no control, the political instability in Kashmir is now a big name world over. Whatever the reasons for this instability may be, undoubtedly it has hit each and every corner of our life and spared no one. Whether it may be socio-cultural, economic, or any other sector, this political trauma has caused big losses in every sector of the valley. Among all it is the educational sector which has been most affected by the political instability of the valley.  We can somehow repair the economic losses caused due to the unstable conditions of the valley. We can put our extra efforts and can work in off times to repair the loss.  But we can’t regain the losses to the education system, because a student can’t regain his academic year. Career building of our youth is a pre planned process in which each and everyday counts. Closing of educational institutions for one day means too much which can be understood only by  developed nations. But here in our valley due to bandhs and curfews, our schools and colleges remain closed for months, and we and our government seem to be least concerned about this matter. Looking at the past many years, we can aptly say that these uprisings occur concurrently at the peak academic session of the year and our educational institutes remain closed for months, which adversely affect the studies. It is not wrong to say that now our educational institutes have just become examination conducting centres without any teaching-learning process and students are just promoted to next classes with zero quality. Sometimes the political atmosphere of the valley becomes so unfavourable that conducting of classwork becomes a day dream for months and even conducting of the annual examinations becomes hard and impossible. In such situations most of the academic courses in the valley become time consuming and causes mental stress on our young generation.

 

Last year after the abrogation of Article 35A on August 5, the whole valley was put under siege, curfew was imposed in the valley for a long period and along with other government offices all the educational institutes remained close for many months. Though the whole valley became standstill and the normal life became paralysed, I think it was the education system which suffered the most. Though it was ‘Kashmir bandh’ for months, shopkeepers used to keep their shops open in the early morning hours and in the late evening hours.  No doubt their business was affected, but they somehow compensated it. Some of the shopkeepers misused the abnormal situation of the valley and sold their goods at higher rates as in some regions of the valley rice was sold at the rate of Rs. 3500 per quintal by private dealers which was earlier sold below Rs 2500. Government employees got their salaries without attending their duties as their offices remains closed. Even though some employees used to attend offices, it was only for the purpose of marking their attendance. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that even some people enjoyed this unstable situation of the valley. Though all the sectors suffered partially, it was the student community which suffered the most. They couldn’t attend even a single class for months and their loss was the biggest. They became wanderers of the valley. Funniest thing to see was that at the end of the session the students in lower classes were provided with question papers and were asked to solve them at home and then bring them back to school in order to get promoted to next classes. It was beyond the understanding of common masses what was the fun of all that process.

Currently we are unable to understand the loss which our education system suffers from the political unrest in our valley. Its jolts will be felt in the near future when our nation will have only quantitative literates but without quality. Then there will be no way to repair the damage. It is high time for all of us to understand this grave issue. We should try our best to create a favourable atmosphere for education in our valley and as far as possible we should try to spare our educational institutes from this political instability. Our young generation has enough potential to be our future scholars, doctors, engineers and scientists. This potential shouldn’t be marred by political unrest of the valley rather it should be sculpted in best possible way by our educational institutes for the betterment of our nation.

(The author teaches Geography at GDC, Kulgam. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Opinion

Understanding Drug Addiction

Monitor News Bureau

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By Faizaan Bashir

The need of the hour is to understand what drives youth to drugs. Understanding and avoiding the reasons is far crucial than treating the actual addiction.

“There was a time when ‘divine signs’ were seen in children, but now, it’s like a complete obverse of it,” whimpered a very old, frizzled and pale man in a tone of despair. Watching through the window, the man enjoined upon me for having a disheartening view of two of his younger children puffing weed. So much so, their style of talking and bodily movements would quiver with each passing second. Wherefore, I was able to squueze out the memories of my teen when I too had grown the victim of these life-abrading habits. The clutches of this trap, as far as I could remember, had gripped me to the hilt. None could prevent me from doing so – almost none. It was as if the permanent seal of drugs had been tacked to my heart and mind. For the most part, a person is tend to ‘considerably’ think about crucial and critical aspects of life, but the whole self of mine was in a state of utter freeze just by its disgrace & medically proven-pernicious effects.

 

Anyway, it’s sure, many questions must be doing rounds inside your mind, and it should be so: What is it that drives a normal being into these destructive physical activities? Why is it that these life-hollowing drugs the more a man becomes addictive to, wouldn’t probably do away from us? Even after, having felt its repurcusions, why is not he able to take control over himself, or left himself uttering “I were to have stopped it that time and this time while dying in self-pity!?” Or is there some kind of mystery that lies with the drug-ridden? The answer to all these hardly-contemplated-over-questions is that: of all the drug-addicts, more than 70 percent of its populace have already been suffering from depression, stress, anxiety and many other psychological disorders that seem too difficult to put up with. So, in order to give to the mind a ceaseless rush of dopamine, a chemical in our brain responsible for mood boosting- or giving a temporary feeling of relief, consuming drugs becomes the fitting choice.

There are different drugs available to be sold and each of them has its own features. The way cannabis can give momentary a sigh of relief, couldn’t probably cigarettes do and the continuous cycle of consuming one over other becomes the nasty priority! Drugs are the cruelest killers disguising as relief and mood boosters. A sign of stress is indicative of mind demanding something to get the relaxation from; and here the depressed folk becomes an easy prey to drugs – finding it as swifter working alternative than anything else could be doing! When a man has a huge stress over something, to put in this way, he is bound to consuming the substance having mammoth influential features. So that, the temporary relief from the mess could be achieved; but, that is where a man starts to grow addictive.

Drugs, cruelest killers, have a plethora of dreadful effects on our lives. It’s been found that taking drugs reduces oxygen level in our viens, therby affecting our heart. Others (experts in morphology) would say that it alters the inner structure of mind, thus giving rise to to the life-snatching pshychological disorders – and then one grows paranoid. Many fears take up his mind and tend to neglect the society. She becomes socially bereft! Some would even – for the inability in dealing with people – consume drugs thereof in secret. Substatial number of them are seeing no way to reclaim their lives, thus adding only to the woes and life becoming sheer predicament.

Having refrained from taking these silent killers, I can say that those that are used to devouring or snuffing or whatever ways they take them in should at least check the status of thier lives. They should ask themselves what is it that prompts them to become the easy victim of drugs. Anaylysing the root causes would do plenty in helping one recover from the predicament. If there is any kind of stress or depression or strain, as the major causes remain so at most of the times, despite the fact we don’t comprehend it at the moment, self-control, meditation etc should be considered, wholeheartedly, instead; or even if one is most glued with these drugs, reduce the quantity of it each time. Wait for the due course. Rise to the occasion and stay away from these killing stuff.

It is noteworthy to mention that those who, fortunately, have not become the victim of these killers, must pay no heed to it ever, for once it has been consumed, one fails to understand what to do and what not. The need of the hour is to aware the unawares regarding the downsides – trap – of taking drugs. We must impart in our education sysyem the whole conept of drugs as to how it affects the health and pshychology; and, most importantly, how to waive off our uneasiness at times by mental excersises to keep us calm, secured from the lure of drugs.

There is an urgent need to start a campaign, protest against those dealers and smugglars who dispose of different kinds of drugs whether in manifest or secret to the mentally disturbed victims. The adminstration ought to put more effors in busting such elements. At the same time, instead of penalizing the drug takers, they should be given counselling sessions to squeeze out the things that prompt them to take these drugs. Furthermore, parents must keep a vigil eye on thier children: from where they are coming, who are they friends with, why are they coming late, what has been done to the pocket-money are the questions which every parent must pose on their children. Talking freely with your children is an another thing which is needed to reduce any strain taking up their minds.

We will have to do these things for the sake of our people in general. Our children, who are our future generations, in particular. 

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