SDGs, Special Subcommittee Formed to Focus Freedom of Expression and Journalist Human Rights

While Chairing the consultation focusing on establishing Integrated Reporting and Monitoring Mechanism on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 16.10 Freedom of Expression and Protection of Journalist at National Assembly SDGs Secretariat, Mr. Riaz Fatyana cited that Parliamentary SDGs Task Force through special subcommittee on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalist in collaboration with government institutions, civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and all other stakeholder will work on reform process to protect the journalist community and enable an environment for freedom of expression in Pakistan. It was decide that a subcommittee will work to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements as defined under SDGs framework target 16.10.

Consultation was organized by National Parliamentary Task force on SDGs in collaboration with Peace and Justice Network, a national civil society network, UNESCO and Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights.In addition to members of Parliamentary Task force on SGGs, during the consultation representative from Parliamentarians Reporters Associations, PTA, Ministry of Interior, FIA, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, National Police Bureau, Police Department, Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Planning, National Commissions on Human Rights and other experts shared ways to strengthening coordination and reporting mechanism to promote freedom of expression and protect journalist and human rights defenders in Pakistan.

In this regard, Parliamentary SDGs Task force also launched national initiative in order to integrated work of national and provincial parliamentary SDGs task forces on Freedom of Expression and Rights to Access to Information.

Freedom of expression – an indispensable element has been recognized in the 2030 Development Agenda – “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). SDGs recognize that access to information and fundamental freedoms are an integral part of the broader agenda. SDG Target 16.10 urges UN Member States to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”. The two indicators to follow progress under SGD target 16.10 cover the safety of journalists and the legal and political guarantees to access information.

Sustainable Development Goal target 16.10 reflects the fact that freedom of expression is the touchstone of all other human rights and underpins the achievement of all SDGs. Pakistan National Framework on SDGs approved by the National Economic Council has also declared SDG 16.10 as one of the priority target for Pakistan.

The field assessment on SDG 16.10 based on nationwide interventions conducted by Peace & Justice Network in collaboration with Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights, shows that there is a great need of capacity building of public institutions and policy makers to enhance effective implementation of the right of access to information, and freedom of expression in order to enhance legal and institutional frameworks related to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression online/off-line, right of access to information and safety of journalists, in accordance with international standards (and the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity) and through integrating a gender sensitive approach. Furthermore, the findings reiterated the need to enact legislation addressing the safety of journalists and issue of impunity along with delegating responsibility to law enforcement agencies in protecting and preventing threats against journalists at all tiers. Further stressing the need for Pakistan to initiate steps for including indicator SDG16.10.1 in the next Voluntary National Review (VNR) reporting.

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