Islamabad Politics Report: In the election year 2018 as parties make commitments in their manifestos they should also evolve an agreed common charter of human rights underlying protection of most basic fundamental rights and freedom of expression should be the foremost in it. Until now freedom of expression has come under attack from visible state and non-state actors but now it has come under attack from invisible and secret manipulators.
This has been stated by former Senator Farhatullah Babar while speaking at a consultation organized by the HRCP in Islamabad today.
Freedom of expression was fundamental as without it the entire regime of human rights be it the right to life, right to fair trial, right to information and right of association is threatened and gravely undermined, he said. These invisible manipulators were stifling freedom of expression by arm twisting media outlets, black out of dissenting voices like that of PTM and proscribing media content without recourse to law and bypassing the legal mechanisms provided for the purpose under the law, he said adding “this unlawful manipulation of media content is the most serious and potent threat to freedom of expression.
He said that the appearance of media freedom was an optical illusion that was sustained by the politicians fighting among themselves before full view of the public while any meaningful discussion on state’ narratives was not allowed.
Elaborating, he said that the media refrained from showing footage of Mullah Mansoor Akhtar droned in Balochistan which was available until after President Obama and the Taliban announced it. No meaningful discussion takes place in media on the Guantanamo Bay like prisons in tribal areas officially known as internment centres, on missing persons, negotiations with Khadim Rizvi leading to surrender by the civilian government society, the voice raised by the PTM and the like. Even discussion in the parliament has been stifled he said.
When the reported allotment of 90 acres of land to a former army chief was raised in the parliament an ISPR press release warned against what it described as maligning the army and creating misunderstandings between state institution. The matter has never been discussed in talk shows.
There is no discussion on the mainstreaming of militant outfits, the emergence of Milli Muslim League, the declaration by JuD to enter into electoral politics and parading on media Ehsanullah Esan the self confessed murderer of APS Peshawar as a sort of white washed hero.
He said that the civil society could pay a crucial role in defending human rights only if there was freedoms of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly. However their space and that of human rights defenders was shrinking. He said that political parties may identify human rights issues and also make promises to address them, it will be hard to implement as long as there was a de-facto state overriding the de-jure state.
IA Rehman, Afrasiab Khattak, senator Mir Kabir Shahi, Farzana Nari and Zafarullah Khan executive director PIPS also addressed.