Norway for full, equal and effective participation and free communication of all women at all levels of decision-making

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Tore Nedrebo -Ambassador of Norway 

"UNESCO’s global report 2017/2018 on “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development” is highly interesting reading and I am very pleased to take part in its presentation and discussion in Pakistan. As ambassador of Norway, I particularly appreciate that the Journalism and Media International Center at the Oslo Metropolitan University is one of the four conveners of today’s conference. The long-standing co-operation between the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Oslo Met and the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Punjab has indeed contributed importantly to the good bilateral relations between Norway and Pakistan.

Norway considers freedom of expression as the foundation on which all other democratic freedoms rest. That is why the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and independent media is a particular priority of our foreign and development policy.

At the outset, let me happily note that Pakistani media are among the freest in Asia. It is one of the pleasures of being a diplomat in Islamabad every morning to receive a bunch of English-language newspapers and get a pretty good and freewheeling update on what is happening in the country. Pakistan can be proud of the diversity of its media and the extent of media freedom in the country.

Still, as we all know, Pakistan’s media and media workers are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the so-called powers that be. The legal framework imposes too strict limitations on the freedom of expression. According to International Media Support, a Copenhagen-based Nordic organization working on media professionalization issues, over 120 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan since the year 2000. More than 2,000 of the country’s 20,000 journalists have been assaulted, injured, kidnapped, arrested or seriously intimidated. Over the past year bloggers, social media activists and online information practitioners have also come under attack for exercising the freedom of expression.

Extremist groups are always ready to denounce acts of “sacrilege” by the media. Government officials, political parties, and party activists are quick to harass, threaten, or physically attack journalists regarded as unsympathetic to their views. Inevitably, self-censorship is on the rise within news organizations. The adoption in 2016 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, under which criticism of the military, the judicial system, and Islam can lead to imprisonment, has added to the problem.

During the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last year, Norway made two recommendations regarding press freedom in Pakistan. The first was that Pakistan should “bring to justice perpetrators of attacks on journalists by effectively investigating all individuals and organizations accused of such abuses.” The second was that “that the Government investigate and prosecute both government officials and other perpetrators for acts against members of the media”. Pakistan has accepted both recommendations.

Fortunately, according to Reporters without Borders, the number of journalists killed in Pakistan has dropped in the past four years. No Pakistani professional or citizen journalist was killed in 2017, although one camera operator was. Pakistan indeed improved its ranking on the World Press Freedom Index by eight places last year. Prime Minister Abbasi has confirmed that the government believes in the independence of media. He very rightly pointed out that the media’s role is critical to overall development, strengthening institutions, ensuring good governance and promoting basic values of the society.

So, Pakistan offers a mixed picture as regards trends for freedom of expression and media development. I hope this conference will help encourage the good trends and discourage the bad ones."

And here is text of his intervention at the opening session of the conference on "Women, Media and Transnational Perspectives":

"Thank you for inviting me to this conference. I am proud to stand before you representing a government half of whose members - 10 out of 20 ministers - are women, including the prime minister, the minister of finance and the foreign minister. As ambassador of Norway, I particularly appreciate that the Journalism and Media International Center at the Oslo Metropolitan University is one of the four conveners of today’s conference. The long-standing co-operation between the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Oslo Met and the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Punjab has indeed contributed importantly to the good bilateral relations between Norway and Pakistan.

Norway considers the effective exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other human rights and freedoms. Freedom of expression constitutes a fundamental pillar for building a democratic society and strengthening democracy. Women journalists and women human rights defenders play an important role in this regard.

However, Norway is concerned at the risks faced by these women in the exercise of their work. In too many countries, equal enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression remains elusive. Historically disadvantaged groups – including women, minorities, refugees, indigenous peoples and sexual minorities – continue to struggle to have their voices heard and to access information of relevance to them. 
I hope that the conference will contribute to promoting women’s exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, both online and offline. We need to facilitate the full, equal and effective participation and free communication of all women at all levels of decision-making in their societies and in national, regional and international institutions. Women and girls must also have access to effective remedies for violations of their right to freedom of opinion and expression. There should be no impunity for gender-based violence, including sexual violence, used to intimidate women and girls who are exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

I hope you will all have an interesting and engaging conference discussing these important topics."

Note; 

On 27th and 28th February, ambassador Tore Nedrebø attended two conferences in Lahore organised by the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Punjab and the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Oslo Metropolitan University. The first was on "World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: A Pakistani Perspective on UNESCO report”, and the second on “Working Within and Against the Structures: Women, Media and Transnational Perspectives”. The photo shows the ambassador and co-organiser professor Elisabeth Eide from Oslo Metropolitan University.

Here is the text of Mr Nedrebo's intervention at the opening session of the conference on the UNESCO report: