ISLAMABAD: Opposition leaders from different political parties have joined journalists’ protest against the government’s proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) outside of the Parliament House in Islamabad on Sunday.
PML-N leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Marriyum Aurangzeb, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, Senator Akram Dashti and Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party participated in the protest. JUI-F leaders and several members of the National Assembly from Opposition parties also joined the protest.
Addressing the journalists, former premier Shahid Khaqan said while journalism was becoming more and more independent across the globe, the opposite was happening in Pakistan. “Laws regarding how to control the press are being introduced in Pakistan under the guise of the PMDA,” he added.
The PML-N leader further said 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.
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 was 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, adding, “An attempt is being made to bring such a law to suppress the truth.”
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.”
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”.
A day earlier, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) that it would hold a sit-in outside the Parliament House against the proposed PMDA bill. The PFUJ had appealed to the journalist community, civil society, human rights groups, trade unions and the masses to join the sit-in.
“It is time to demonstrate unity for a common cause. The proposed PMDA will not just be a body to regulate the media sector but will serve as the central censorship office of the state aimed at regulating the freedoms of expression of all citizens of Pakistan,” the statement issued by PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and General Secretary Nasir Zaidi had said.
“We are appealing to all sections of the media, civil society and concerned citizens from all walks of life to join and participate in the peaceful PFUJ dharna on the morning of September 13, 2021, outside the National Assembly in Islamabad,” they had said.
A dharna camp was established in front of the Parliament on Sunday night (September 12) and the leadership promised to remain there till the conclusion of the joint sitting of the Parliament on Monday.