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June 13, 2018

Babar for revisiting suo motu, contempt laws


June 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD: PPP Secretary-General Farhatullah Babar said Tuesday the Cyber Crimes Act and the contempt of courts laws need to be revisited, and a National debate was required on regulating the use of the suo motu powers under Article 184(3).

He proposed that the media professionals should organise regional/international conference on “Dissent - Imperatives of Freedom of Expression” and the parliamentary committees should hold public hearings. The issues of civil-establishment relations need to be addressed through a bipartisan parliamentary committee. Political parties should evolve a minimum charter of human rights and set up human rights cells within parties with focus on freedoms of expression,” he said.

He was addressing a national seminar on 'Elections 2018 – Threats to Freedom of Expression – at the National Press Club, which was also addressed by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Senator Shibli Faraz, TV anchor Hamid Mir and others. He said that that civilian government has been deprived of power and media without freedom in a subtle manner.

Babar said the extensive damage done could be seen in media exercising self censorship, the journalists threatened and abducted. “Not long ago a major TV channel mysteriously went off air in most of the country and newspapers owned by the group also disappeared from newsstands,” he said.

He said some columnists had resorted to publishing their [write-ups and stories] on Twitter as newspapers expressed inability to publish their writings. After a news leak, the newspaper disappeared from some parts of the country, and the TV lost ads, he said.

Maulana fazalur Rahman said the thing should not be said that hurt the state but at the same time respect should also be given to citizens of state.

He said the freedom of press did not mean that we wanted an absolute freedom of media as there should be limitation on it.

He said there should be criticism but not character assassination. "We have no issue on criticism, but not character assassination," he said.

He questioned that why only politicians’ character assassination was carried out and not others’ who were more powerfull.

Fazl said political norms in the country had been changed, adding that politicians’ self-confidence had eroded and they felt they were not running the country.

He said the Fata reforms were approved by the National Assembly in 45 minutes against the norms of democracy but they accepted the decision of majority, adding, “Presidential ordinance is now announced instead of the bill passed by the assembly.”

The JUI-F also cited the situation in North Waziristan and said targeted killings were going on in Wana.

Pervaiz Rashid said the issue was not media freedom but of democratic freedom. “The people got an independent country but those living in the country did not get independence,” he remarked. He called for formation of a united front comprising politicians, journalists, judiciary and workers. Shibli said the PTI believed in the freedom of press and the policies for the press freedom and media workers would also be included in the manifesto.

Hamid Mir said, “We are moving towards a big battle as a restricted freedom was granted in Article 19 of the Constitution.” Hamid Mir said there was a hidden censor ship.

He said the actual struggle of the media would start after July 25 and every one to stand up. In his remarks, PFUJ President Afzal Butt said everybody in journalism was feeling an unseen pressure.

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