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Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity - Status of Pakistan

Islamabad, 22 July 2019: UNESCO held a multi-stakeholder consultation in collaboration with National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) of Pakistan, Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) and Peace and Justice Network (PJN) under its Multi-Donor Program on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.

H.E Ambassador of Sweden in Pakistan Ms. Ingrid Johansson, Human Rights Officer Ms. Christine Chung from OHCHR, Mr. Chaudhry Muhammad Shafique representing the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights (PCHR), and other esteemed guests from the government of Pakistan participated in the consultation.

UNESCO Representative in Pakistan Ms. Vibeke Jensen acknowledged government's efforts especially NCHR in recognizing the importance of freedom of expression. Ms. Vibeke Jensen, called upon the stakeholders to use avenues that have not been fully explored such as academic research, capacity building of judiciary on legal framework on freedom of expression, and mechanisms to tackle online risks.

Ms. Chung reiterated that journalists are exposed to all kinds of threats including online threats these days. She emphasized that states remain the number one duty bearer in ensuring a safe environment for media and therefore called for increased efforts to live up to their international obligation.

Mr. Chaudhry Muhammad Shafique elaborated on the pressure and risks faced by Pakistani journalists in performing their duties. He also highlighted that it is the government's responsibility to take a lead on creating an environment for protection and safety of journalists in the country. He stated that currently the ownership of the issue is fragmented among relevant ministries.

The avenues available to advance the safety of journalists, such as the Human Rights Council (HRC), the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Special Procedures and human rights treaty bodies, and the development of SDG indicator 16.10.1 to enhance accountability were discussed at length. Increased coordination among relevant stakeholders, increased compliance for existing laws, capacity building of relevant government departments, continuity and sustainability of initiatives and need for clearly mandated authority on issues of protection were the most important themes identified. The participants called upon the media houses to focus on wellbeing of the journalists in line with international labor standards.

H.E. Ambassador of Sweden in Pakistan Ms. Ingrid Johansson concluded the consultation by reiterating that freedom of expression is a global issue and Sweden is at the forefront in supporting various countries including Pakistan in addressing various issues encompassing the freedom of expression.

The consultation concluded with consensus on need for national and provincial level mechanisms for promoting safety of journalists with a special focus on issues pertaining to online and offline safety of female journalist.