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Apr 13 2019

Rule of law, independent judiciary integral to press freedom, say journalists

In the absence of the rule of law and independent judiciary, both journalists and journalism face a demise that is irreversible, Ahval’s Editor-in-Chief Yavuz Baydar said during a panel session on threats to press freedom at the International Journalism Festival in Manila on April 5.

The panel on the threats facing press freedom around the world featured Pakistani journalist and Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas, Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa alongside Baydar and other journalists, Philippines-based online news website Rappler reported.

"Media journalism stands, rises, prevails, and flourishes on the basis of rule of law and independent judiciary. And this is the most important lesson that we learned in Turkey. If that starts crackling and starts falling down, collapsing, there's no way to protect not only journalists but journalism per se; it's gone,’’ Baydar said, noting that the demise of journalist in Turkey seems "irreversible.’’

There are 135 journalists and media workers behind bars in Turkey, according to a February report by the Journalists' Union of Turkey and the country has placed 157th out of 180 countries on World Press Freedom Index ranking in 2018 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Abbas, speaking on journalism in Pakistan, said that authorities in his country had now resorted to "killing journalism" instead of journalists.

Pakistani authorities have made independent journalism "very vulnerable," Abbas said, by using social media platforms to question the patriotism and independence of journalists "day in and day out."

Rappler CEO Ressa stressed the need for recognition of the toll social media warfare takes, especially when targeting journalists, citing an incident last February when supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte sneaked into the Rappler headquarters to condemn the media organization for allegedly destroying the country's image in the world.

Warning journalists not to take "institutional security" for granted, Baydar stressed that destroying institutional memories - as Ankara has done in a crackdown on media following the July 2016 coup attempt - is a "barbaric way of dealing with the memory of the sector, of our profession."

Abbas, who remains hopeful that journalists will win in the end, urged international media organisations to continue expressing their support for journalists at risk, noting, "Authorities don't want to be named and shamed internationally. So my suggestion always to all my colleagues who work for international organisations, human rights organisations is that please do not think these are just small statements."