ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has expressed the strong resolve of the government’s to ensure freedom of speech and expression and protection of the journalists in Pakistan. Addressing an event organized by Islamabad Journalist Safety Forum on the theme of the UN ten years Plan of Action on Tuesday, the prime minister said his government believes that the freedom of expression is sacrosanct and will remain at the heart of the democratic process. PM Shehbaz noted that free media and freedom of speech are strong pillars of democracy; there can be no democracy without freedom of expression. The prime minister said his government would be part of efforts aimed at making Pakistani democracy stronger through greater free media. Shehbaz Sharif pointed out that Pakistan became the first country in Asia to pass an act of the parliament on the safety of journalists at the federal and the provincial level in Sindh province.
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He said the government will continue to support the ongoing efforts in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to legislate on the safety of journalists. Shehbaz Sharif said the parliament passed a landmark Protection of Journalists and Media Professional Act after thorough consultations with all the stakeholders. He said this act recognises the rights of journalists and seeks to protect media persons from all kinds of ill treatment and aggression. He assured the full implementation of this legislation. Shehbaz Sharif said his government believes that no journalists should be called out or attacked for exercising their freedom of expression as guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan. Referring to the murder of senior Journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya, Shehbaz Sharif said he has written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a commission to investigate the murder and hoped some action will be taken in this regard.
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Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador of France Nicolas Galey was appreciative of the legislation passed by Pakistani parliament for protection of journalists. He said this is a major step forward. He said his embassy will continue to promote media exchanges between Pakistan and France. Norway’s Ambassador to Pakistan Per Albert Ilsaas said the global community must ensure a safe environment for journalists both online and offline. He said the Protection of Journalist and Media Professional Act by Pakistan is a major step towards ensuring the safety of journalists and media practitioners and protecting them from violence and harassment. Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Jakob Linulf said his country backs community journalism in Pakistan. He said our support goes to a growing ecosystem of media start-ups in the country. He said we recently arranged a visit of Pakistani journalists to Denmark to enhance their capacity to report on climate change.
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Meanwhile, the prime minister welcomed the suo moto notice taken by the Supreme Court on the killing of prominent journalist Arshad Sharif. He assured that the government would extend full cooperation to the court. “I welcome Supreme Court taking suomoto notice of the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif,” he said in a Twitter post. Shehbaz Sharif mentioned that he had already written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for setting up a judicial commission to probe the murder. The Supreme Court on Tuesday headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial directed the government to register a first information report (FIR) by tonight