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ORDERS RECEIVED FROM THE TOP?
Journalists get a taste of Imran Khan's New Pakistan: SAFMA office sealed with members, pet dog still inside
- PT Pakistan Desk
Journalists get a taste of Imran Khan's New Pakistan: SAFMA office sealed with members, pet dog still inside



IMRAN KHAN'S New Pakistan began its relationship with the free voices in the media this week in a rather disappointing manner: Just as it became clear that Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party will be forming the government in Punjab, authorities moved fast to seal the office of SAFMA, the South Asian Free Media Association, a non-profit that promotes media networking in South Asia for regional peace. 

Some members of Safma and a pet dog were still inside the building that was sealed by the LDA. 

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) pulled out a complaint gathering dust for years and claimed that SAFMA was carrying out ‘commercial activities’ in the residential area from its office in Shadman-II enclave.

Journalists who still dare to speak truth to power in Pakistan have slammed the move, even as officials said some residents had approached the court a few years back to demand that commercial activities of SAFMA be stopped. The Daily Times of Pakistan led with the headline: SAFMA is Naya Pakistan’s first victim.
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The action against Safma comes at a time when different media outlets, journalists and local and international rights groups are complaining of increasing pressure on the media and restrictions on free speech in Pakistan.
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"We must ask to what extent can running a library and a school for teaching journalists the media code of ethics be classified as a commercial activity?" asked Pakistan's leading English language daily "Dawn" in an editorial condemning the action against SAFMA.

"The action against Safma comes at a time when different media outlets, journalists and local and international rights groups are complaining of increasing pressure on the media and restrictions on free speech in Pakistan," the Dawn said.

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam condemned the sealing of the office of the media foundation and urged the caretaker chief minister of Punjab, Dr Hassan Askari, a journalist himself, to intervene in the matter. 

SAFMA now plans to hold protest rallies and sit-ins besides pursuing the legal battle. Most experts said by no means can the activities of SAFMA be described as commercial.

SAFMA is a non-profit organization working for capacity building of journalists and advocates freedom of the media under Article 123 of the constitution of Pakistan. 
 

It is a subsidiary of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and journalists of Saarc member countries have a stake in it.
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A number of senior journalists in Punjab have remained associated with SAFMA, including South Asia Post editor Gobind Thukral and Ajit's Satnam Manik.
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Senior official of the LDA, Ms Amina Imran Khan, was quoted by the Dawn as saying that the LDA "will not allow anyone to carry out commercial activities that disturb the residents.” She said SAFMA's activities "are really causing public nuisance."

Hitting back, Imitiaz Alam said thousands of plots remain under illegal occupation of land mafia and all around the SAFMA office, many buildings were being used for commercial activities. 

"In general, everywhere in Lahore, many premises are being used for commercial purposes unlawfully allegedly in connivance with the LDA," he said.

"One thing is clear: whatever has happened has been done on the orders received from the ‘Top’," Alam said.
Alam said he was worried about how to bring out of the sealed building the Safma members and a pet dog who were inside. "If we try to go inside, it would be violation of the law,” he said, adding, "I would also take up the matter with the ISPR very soon.”

A number of senior journalists in Punjab have remained associated with SAFMA, including South Asia Post editor Gobind Thukral and Ajit's Satnam Manik.
 
 

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