Opposition leaders join journalists’ protest against PMDA

Statesman Report

ISLAMABAD: As journalists staged a sit-in outside of the Parliament House to protest against the government’s proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), Opposition leaders from different political parties also joined in to show solidarity and criticise the government’s proposal.

Politicians who joined the protest included senior PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, Senator Akram Dashti and Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party, and PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb. JUI-F leaders and several members of the National Assembly from Opposition parties also joined the protest.

Addressing the journalists, Abbasi said that while journalism is becoming more and more independent across the globe, the opposite is happening in Pakistan.

“Laws regarding how to control the press are being introduced in Pakistan under the guise of the PMDA,” Abbasi said, adding that if the government had some problems with the content being aired by different channels, then merely phoning the channel concerned would have been enough instead of creating an entity like PMDA.

The former premier went on to say that in countries where the press is not free, its citizens are not free either.

“It is the constitutional right of the people of the country to express their views; we are not talking about politics here,” Abbasi said. “Was the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) not enough that we needed another media authority?”

He said that different military dictators that ruled Pakistan — from Ayub Khan to Pervez Musharraf — made efforts to suppress the press, adding that the incumbent PTI government is following the same path by trying to silence journalists.

“Today, policemen are standing with sticks in their hands to stop journalists [from protesting]” Abbasi pointed out. “An attempt is being made to bring such a law to suppress the truth.”

‘An attempt to eliminate journalists’

Akin to Abbasi, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also addressed the protesting crowd and said that the PTI-led government’s proposed media authority law is “not only devised to suppress journalism but it is an attempt to eliminate journalists.”

“The government has made a dictatorial move and the PML-N stands in solidarity with the journalist community against it,” she said.

Opposition rejects

this ‘media martial law’

On the other hand, PPP leader Shazia Marri, while addressing journalists, said that the PMDA is solely proposed to control the media.

“All Opposition parties reject the PDMA bill,” Marri maintained. “Sadly, the information minister continued to lie that the PFUJ had been supporting the bill.”

“You cannot resort to policing [freedom of speech],” she said to the government. “We reject this media martial law”.

‘Draconian law’

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also expressed solidarity with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and, in a statement, said that “PMDA is a draconian law”

“The PMDA bill is PTI government’s attempt to further stifle freedom of expression in the country,” the HRCP said in a statement.