ISLAMABAD: Journalists Sunday staged a sit-in outside the Parliament House against the Pakistan Media Development Authority and the media restrictions. The sit-in was staged on the call of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists.
The sit-in will continue during the speech of President Dr Arif Alvi to the joint sitting of the parliament on Monday (today). Journalists, opposition parties, civil society, representatives of the Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan participated in the sit-in against imposition of curbs on the media and the proposed PMDA.
Former prime minister and PMLN Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Secretary General PPP Parliamentarians Farhatullah Babar, Senator Akram Dashti, Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party, PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, PPP Secretary Information Shazia Marri, JUI-F leaders Hamdullah, Shahida Akhtar Ali and several members of the National Assembly from opposition parties also joined the protest.
Before staging a sit-in, the rally was led by President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Shahzada Zulfiqar, Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Joint Action Committee of the RIUJ Afzal Butt, President National Press Club Shakeel Anjum, President RIUJ Amir Sajjad Syed and other journalists.
Journalists also decided to stage a walkout from the press gallery of the parliament on the call of the Parliamentary Reporters Association during the speech of President Dr Arif. Addressing the rally at the National Press Club, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi extended the support of the PMLN for journalists’ cause against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority and said Pemra was not enough that the government need the PMDA.
“It is not a political issue as it is an issue of denial of right of expression and freedom of press,” he said. He said denial of freedom of media means denial of rights of the people guaranteed in the constitution.
He said the laws regarding how to control the press were being introduced in Pakistan under the guise of the PMDA and 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.
He said from Ayub Khan to Musharraf, attempts were made to suppress the free voice of the media. Secretary General PPP Parliamentarians Farhatullah Babar said the PPP had rejected the PMDA and will not allow to let it pass.
He said the government intended to bring PMDA and electronic voting machines to rig the elections. Secretary Information PPP Parliamentarians Shazia Marri said media martial law is being slapped on the media through the PMDA.
Secretary Information PML-N Marriyum Aurangzeb said all opposition parties were with journalists, as the proposed media authority law was "not only devised to suppress journalism but it was an attempt to eliminate journalists.
She said this dictatorial mindset was dominating the country. “In last three years, journalists were financially murdered,” she said. She said the government wanted to mute the voices of the opposition and media through such black laws.
Secretary General PFUJ Nasir Zaidi said the PMDA was a planned one-window operation to impose widespread censorship through pooling of budgets of several media regulators thereby providing massive resources to government proxies to crack down on the media.
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