June 19, 2023, marks the ninth anniversary of the landmark 2014 Supreme Court judgement on the protection of the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. To mark the occasion, ADPM (Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media) urges the national and local news media to use the judgement’s directives as an accountability framework for reporting compassionately and sensitively on the rights and issues of Pakistan’s religious minorities.
Popularly called the ‘Justice Jillani judgement’ after its author the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, the 2014 court order had issued seven directives to federal and provincial governments for the protection of religious minorities. These included developing curricula for religious tolerance, taking steps to discourage online hate speech, creating a national council for minorities, and creating a special police force to protect places of worship of minorities.
The ADPM, is an advisory alliance of journalists and rights activists that works to promote inclusive and pluralistic public interest journalism in the country. believes the Justice Jillani judgement is a progressive document that decrees basic government actions to provide safety and fundamental rights to Pakistan’s religious minority groups, which are regularly subjected to social discrimination, political exclusion, economic marginalisation, and threats to their lives and expression.
The ADPM also encourages journalists and news outlets to not only report on the importance of the Jillani judgement’s directives but also to highlight the gap that exists in compliance with the orders.
In the judgement, the court had created a review mechanism for compliance with the orders. Later, in 2019, the court set up a one-person commission comprising former police chief Shoaib Suddle to monitor the judgement’s implementation. However, despite numerous hearings and orders over the past nine years, federal and provincial authorities have demonstrated only around 25% overall compliance with the Justice Jillani judgement, according to research done by the Centre for Social Justice. This reflects a significant gap in compliance and therefore indicates the state’s inability to meet its obligations towards its citizens.
Finally, the ADPM would like to express its commitment and dedication to upholding the key directives issued by Justice Jillani’s judgement. In this regard, the ADPM would also like to thank the members of the Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP), which have published over 200 news reports over the past two years to give voice to the diverse religious minority communities and raise the issues they face. ADPM would also like to advise other journalists and media outlets to follow DigiMAP’s lead and increase news coverage of religious minorities while ensuring their dignity, listening to their concerns, and avoiding negative stereotypes that perpetuate misconceptions against them.