The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is deeply concerned at the National Press Club (NPC) administration having barred senior journalists from entering the premises on Saturday 23 November 2019. Each week, a senior journalists’ forum is hosted at the NPC library, chaired by veteran journalist Muhammad Ziauddin, who is known for his impeccable professional ethics and integrity. The forum invites national and international subject experts and politicians of all shades – including those belonging to the ruling coalition – to discuss and debate current issues on Pakistan’s economy, society and polity. For journalists, columnists and media personnel, holding such debates is part of their duty; as citizens, it is their right.
On 23 November, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen was invited to the forum. However, the NPC administration stopped both PTM members and journalists from entering the premises, and insulted veteran journalists, including M Ziauddin, Shahid ur Rehman, Mazhar Arif and Jamil Ahmed, among others.
HRCP sees this as a gross violation of the freedom of expression and as an act of cowardice on the part of the NPC administration. Ironically, the closed forum gained more publicity around the world when it was held at a nearby alternative venue, a children’s park, soon after. The heavy presence of police and men in plainclothes did not deter the journalists from holding their forum: HRCP stands in solidarity with them.