Islamabad- Pakistan is to set up a special commission to protect journalists and will include press freedom as part of peace talks with Taliban militants, an official said today.
The violence-plagued state remains one of the world's most difficult and dangerous countries for journalists.
According to media campaign group Reporters Without Borders, seven journalists were killed doing their jobs in Pakistan last year and the country was 158th out of 180 countries in its press freedom ranking. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to create a commission of journalists, public figures and government members which would propose measures to improve journalist safety. The announcement from Sharif's office came after he met a delegation from the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
"This was a good day for the Pakistani press, it is the firmest commitment from the highest level that we ever had on the right of reporters to practice without fears," said Kati Marton of the CPJ after the meeting.
Sharif agreed to make the protection of journalists an issue in talks between his government and the Pakistani Taliban, aimed at ending the militants' bloody seven-year insurgency, Marton told reporters.
"I raised with him the need... to raise as a priority with the Taliban press freedom and press security and the need for the Taliban to end its violence against the press and its intimidation of the press," she said. "He said that he would do that, he would make that an agenda item."
The CPJ delegation also raised the case of Declan Walsh, the New York Times bureau chief in Pakistan who was expelled from the country shortly before last year's general election for unspecified "undesirable activities".
"He (Sharif) said that would be resolved as well," Marton said. "The critical thing is to lift the ban on Walsh and then the NY Times can do what it chooses, reassign him or not, but at least lift the persona non grata status that hangs over Walsh."