Saturday October 16, 2021

Demo against PMDA outside Parliament tomorrow: PFUJ appeals for mass participation in dharna

Demo against PMDA outside Parliament tomorrow: PFUJ appeals for mass participation in dharna

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is going to stage a historic dharna (Sit-in) outside the Parliament House against the government plans to establish a new headquarters of censorship in the name of Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).

The PFUJ has appealed to the entire journalist community, civil society, human rights groups, trade unions, workers’ associations, students’ groups, digital rights advocates and the citizens to join the dharna that will be staged on the eve of president of Pakistan’s annual address to the joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly scheduled for September 13, says a press release.

“It is time for unity around 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 said.

“We are appealing to all sections of 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 said.

A dharna camp will be established in front of Parliament on the night of Sunday (September 12) and the leadership will spend night in the camp till the conclusion of joint sitting of the Parliament on Monday.

“The dharna is aimed at demonstrating solidarity and pooling widespread support against the creation of PMDA and strategising the protection of freedom of expression of citizens, defending the rights of journalists and pre-empting the planned assault on independent media in the country,” the statement said.

The PFUJ leaders said the continuous onslaught by the government on the rights of media workers, safety of journalists and their economic strangulation had reached its highest limits ever leaving the media sector teetering on the brink of collapse. “The PMDA is a planned one-window operation to impose widespread censorship through pooling of the budgets of several media regulators thereby providing massive resources to government proxies to crackdown on the media so that it becomes totally captured and too weak to provide professional coverage of upcoming elections,” the statement added.

“The proposed PMDA, therefore, is not just a media manipulation mechanism, it will also serve to undermine democracy and parliamentary system, which is why it is necessary for all journalists, workers, students, teachers, lawyers, activists and other citizens to join this dharna to foil the nefarious designs against democracy and free media in Pakistan,” the PFUJ leaders said.

Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi urged the entire media community and civil society to show unity and commitment for the rights of journalists and citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information by opposing the coming "media martial law.”

The Rawalpindi Islamabad Journalists Union (RIUJ) will also join the sit-in outside the Parliament House.

The rally will be led by PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar, Secretary General Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Joint Action Committee of the RIUJ Afzal Butt, NPC President Shakeel Anjum, RIUJ President Amir Sajjad Syed and other journalists.

The Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, civil society, trade unions, student organisations have announced to participate in the protest rally and sit-in against imposition of curbs on media and against the proposed PMDA.

The joint action committee of different media organisations that include Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the PFUJ, and the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) have supported the protest against the proposed PMDA.

All opposition parties, including the PDM and PPP, have already rejected the proposed PDMA bill to ban the media, expressing solidarity with journalists and participating in sit-in.

The off-screen anchors will hold their talk shows at the sit-in site which will continue outside Parliament on the occasion of the joint sitting of Parliament Monday.

The meeting of the RIUJ was held on Saturday in which the arrangements of the freedom of the press rally was finalised. The protest rally will move four demands to the government, including the reinstatement of journalists, who have been forcibly fired over the past three years, the payment of salaries, dues of pay cuts and action against those who were involved in the kidnapping, torture of journalists.

JAC Chairman Afzal Butt said the journalists are holding a peaceful rally to register their protest against the restrictions on the media and against the PMDA. He said the government was creating hurdles in the issuance of the cards to working journalists. “It will be peaceful protest and if the government has created any hurdle then they will be responsible,” he warned.

Meanwhile, the APNS strongly lamented the perpetual efforts of the federal government to curtail the independence of the media, the latest being the proposed PMDA which is intended to strangulate and control the entire media of the country.

The Executive Committee of the APNS at its meeting held at Karachi on September 9, 2021, chaired by the President, APNS, Sarmad Ali, was briefed by the president on different meetings with the stakeholders and the federal government on the establishment of the PMDA. The members unanimously rejected the proposal and termed it as an attempt to tighten the federal government control over the media from one platform. The proposed PMDA appears as extension of Pemra to all media with more regimental provisions as subjugate and take over the independence of free media, says a press release on Saturday.

The APNS Executive Committee further stated that the proposal was unconstitutional as any federal legislation to regulate print media is beyond the power of Parliament after the 18th constitutional amendment. The APNS outrightly rejected the proposal to make it mandatory for all types of media to obtain licenses and renewal of registration. The proposal envisages the concept of media tribunal whose members were to be appointed by the federal government which is a form of direct control over the media.

The concept is contrary to the very notion of the justice and a fair hearing as it denies the right of appeal in the high courts. The tribunals have been authorised with the punishment up to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs25 million. The committee observed that the federal government intends to tighten its control on media at large. The committee also noted that unless the proposed law to establish the PMDA is shared with stakeholders, no meaningful consultation was possible.

The Executive Committee considered the report of Advertising Committee and approved M/s Advertising & Business Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd, Peshawar for confirmation of accreditation. M/s Marcom (Pvt.) Ltd, Islamabad and M/s Wings Media (Pvt) Ltd, Lahore were granted provisional accreditation. The committee also approved the restructuring of M/s Zenith Advertising Communication (Pvt.) Ltd, Karachi.

The members offered Fateha on the sad demise of Mr Arif Nizami, a veteran editor and journalist, Mrs. Shamim Akhtar wife of Mr Ghulam Akbar and mother of Mr Inam Akbar and Mr Nadeem Akbar, Sahibzada Zia-ur-Rahman Shami, elder brother of Mr Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami, Chief Editor, Daily Pakistan, Lahore and aunt of Ms. Fauzia Shaheen, publisher, Monthly Dastak, Karachi.

The following attended the meeting:

Sarmad Ali, President, Shahab Zuberi, Vice President, Fauzia Shaheen (Monthly Dastak), Najamuddin Sheikh (Daily Deyanat), Muhammad Younus Mehar (Daily Halchal), Adnan Faisal (Daily Jiddat, Karachi), Javed Mehr Shamsi (Daily Kaleem), Muhammad Aslam Leghari (Daily Kawish), Muhammad Manzoor Rana (Daily Mashriq, Quetta), Zahida Abbasi (Daily Nau Sijj), SM Munir Jilani (Daily Paigham), Humayun Gulzar (Daily Sayadat) and Nasir Daad Baloch (Daily Sindh Sujaag)

The following attended the meeting on Zoom :

Jamil Athar, Sr. Vice President, Nazafreen Saigol Lakhani, Secretary General, Mohsin Bilal, Joint Secretary, Awais Khushnood, Finance Secretary, Syed Sajjad Bokhari (Daily Abtak), Mumtaz A. Tahir (Daily Aftab), Waseem Ahmed (Daily Awam, Quetta), Ansar Mahmood Bhatti (Monthly Centre Line), Kazi Asad Abid (Fortnightly Ibrat), Imtinan Shahid (Daily Khabrain), Umer Mujib Shami (D/Pakistan, Lahore), Faisal Zahid Malik (D/Pakistan Observer) and Dr Waqar Yousuf Azeemi (M/Roohani Digest).