Punjab PA Speaker approves amendment to privilege bill

July 06, 2021

LAHORE: After serious reservations and protest by the journalist community, Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi has notified amendments to the Punjab Privileges Amendment Bill 2021.In the...

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LAHORE: After serious reservations and protest by the journalist community, Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi has notified amendments to the Punjab Privileges Amendment Bill 2021.

In the Amendment Bill, one schedule was included in the 1972 Act. Parvaiz Elahi in a statement in Monday said that he held journalists in great esteem and the clauses had been removed from the Privilege Bill after the reservations expressed by media fraternity.

However, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Lahore-based Joint Action Committee (JAC) rejected outright the amended Punjab Assembly Privileges Bill 2021 terming it eyewash aimed at cooling down the tempers of journalists. “The PFUJ and Action Committee reject the amended bill as notified by the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly on Monday through a press release and demand that Section 21 of the controversial bill be totally abolished,” PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfikar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said in a joint press statement.

The law, adopted unanimously by all the political parties including PTI, PMLQ PPP, and PMLN, allows house’s handpicked “judicial committee” to penalise in a summary trial any journalist or bureaucrat for breach of a privilege of the house or any of its committee or a member.

According to a press release issued by the Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi many controversial clauses had been omitted from the Bill under Section 21 which empowers the Speaker to add or delete any section of the bill.

“We are against Section 21 of the Bill itself, as it will serve as a hanging sword over the journalists as it empowers the Speakers to add or delete any clause in the bill without even the approval of the Assembly,” the joint statement said.

“We demand immediate abolition of this clause and will continue our struggle against these draconian powers till it is abolished.” The PFUJ also asked the JAC to consider setting up a permanent protest camp outside the Punjab Assembly or on the Mall. The PFUJ directed all the unions of journalists across Pakistan to prepare lists of journalists who could volunteer to join the protest camp in Lahore.

“This is the beginning of a long fight that the PFUJ is ready to fight, as it did during the martial law regime of Ziaul Haq,” the press statement said. The PFUJ also commended all the unions of journalists across Pakistan which held protest demonstrations throughout the country on Monday.

The PFUJ noted that since the inception of PTI government in the Centre, an unannounced censorship had been imposed on the media, television channels had been forced to terminate outspoken anchors and columnists, attacks on journalists had increased and not a single culprit had been arrested. It said the state had tried to introduce draconian laws in shape of social media rules and Pakistan Media Development Authority. “We warn the government that it will face a tough resistance from journalists, as they will go to the last extent to protect freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, countrywide rallies were held across the country at the call of PFUJ where journalist unions demanded withdrawal of anti-journalist Punjab Assembly privilege bill.

The speakers termed it “attempt to intimidate and harass journalist community” to report governance and transparency issues. Rallies were held in Lahore outside the Punjab Assembly, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad and Sukkur. Black flags were hoisted on all the press clubs as a mark of protest against the Punjab Assembly Privilege Bill 2021.

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