South Asia has generally become dangerous for journalists: Social Activist Hina Jilani, tells The Oslo Times
Hina Jilani is a lawyer and civil society activist and active in the movement for peace, human rights and women’s rights in Pakistan for the last three decades. She specializes in human rights litigation, and is especially concerned with the human rights of women, children, minorities, bonded and child labour, political and other prisoners. She is internationally recognised for her expertise in critical human rights investigations.
Jilani in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor -in Chief, Hatef Mokhtar. She spoke about human rights and women rights situation on Pakistan. She also highlighted that South Asia is a place that has generally become very dangerous for journalists, largely because of the issues that have been made more sensitive then they should have been.
Excerpts below give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
What does human right mean to you?
To me it means the ability to live free, to say what I think needs to be said in order that people in my community and country are able to make their life better; it means to me that, I have the freedom to associate with others, it means not just for politics but to associate with others remote arts and culture; it means all kinds of freedom, equality for all human beings and above this all safe guarding the rights of all human beings.
How do you see the exercise of freedom of expression in South Asian media?
I think South Asia is a place that has generally become very dangerous for journalists, largely because of the issues that have been made more sensitive then they should have been. Some of these issues are not necessarily religious or fundamentalist but are about democracy and the rising military in South Asia. People’s voices are asking for more participation and democracy and exposure of violence and trafficking within state institutions itself in the form of disappearance and torture makes journalist much more vulnerable to harm.
Due to this, I think, presently journalists and the media have certain degree of self-censorship in many ways rather than that imposed by the state. What the states have done is removed laws that were limiting freedom of expression but imposed fear in many ways, they are not clean as those who are propelling it. So there is an increasing prevalence of self-censorship in the media. However, in case of Pakistan, Pakistanis have struggled for a longtime to get freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Its media has become much more free than it used to be in the past, not because any government or any leader worked for the freedom of expression but because of the struggle of the people.
How would you introduce yourself?
I am a Lawyer, a woman, and a human rights defendant. It doesn’t matter where I come from, because wherever I am from I have been compelled to fight for Punjab.
What does justice mean to you?
For me justice means that there is no repression in terms of curtailing your freedom, there is no repression in terms of your not finding relief or justice for all the wrong that has been done to you.
In India a female is raped every 38 seconds. How do you take this situation and what is your opinion for addressing this situation?
I think for me what is more important in terms of rape cases in India is how Indians arose and protested against one rape case in 2013. It that was the first time that people across all kinds of walk, religion and other divisions came together and made the state of India to understand that it should not be acceptable in India. This is an important development, which I wish would happen in other countries as well where people who think it is wrong would get up and mobilize others also to stand up against such cases.
Extremism is taken as a big challenge. How do you perceive its rise in the Middle East or South Asia?
I think it is wrong to think that it is bigger challenge for the civilized countries or the western world than it is to the people who live in those countries where these extremists are operating. People in countries like Pakistan, in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, where extremism is rising and violent Jihadism is propagated, are the ones who face a bigger challenge. Bigger responsibility also lies on us. We need to make sure that the international community understands how they can contribute to strengthening our struggle against extremism. They should not see themselves as a victim of Islamic extremism, instead should think of themselves as a part of huge population of the world that is going to pop up which includes people from the very country where extremism, terrorism and Jihadism have taken root.
How do you see dictatorship?
I think that we have found the right tool to overcome the tendency in many countries to dictatorship.
How do you see United Nations’ role in the world?
It’s the least that we need. It is something without which lot of things would not happen. It is an imperfect and flawed system but without which we would have been washed out.
What is women rights for you?
Something that is coming up, something that is becoming a core agenda even in politics as well as in human rights.
What is your opinion on Child Labor in South Asia?
It must be eliminated through very strong economic and social policies that will relieve the child of the burden of adult.
How do you perceive Pakistan?
My country, where we want social progress to take root, where where we want people to have equality of status, and where where we want everyone to live with safety and with dignity.
Are you a politician?
I am not a politician, and I don’t think that I am cut out to be a politician, but I am certainly somebody who is very familiar and very interested in my country’s politics because that determines the context in which I do my work either as a lawyer or as a human rights defender.
Dictatorial or totalitarian regimes across the world have imprisoned many journalists and human rights activists- many of which have been forced to spend their whole life in prison. As a human rights activist and a lawyer, what is your message to them?
My first message is of course that we continue to invest in our struggle and my second message is there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We must proceed towards the way we do and did because this is the last set of dictators we have. Once this particular period of dictatorship ends, I don’t think that the world will have tolerance for dictatorship. Democracy is fast gathering support because for the time being that is the best system we have under which it is possible to promote justice, peace and human rights.
What do you think about the World Women conference today?
I think it is a very positive time that women in the world are not just talking about women’s rights, they are talking about women’s right and how it affects the life of the nation and the life of the international community. We are talking about repression that affects our country and repression that women’s work must contribute to lift.
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