APNS, CPNE, PBA, PFUJ, AEMEND accuse government of trying to impose state control over all segments of media through draconian law
Representatives of various Pakistani media organizations on Wednesday rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government’s proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), describing it as a “draconian law” that was against the freedom of press and expression.
In a joint statement, representatives of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society; Council of Press Editors; Pakistan Broadcasters Association; Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists; and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors described the proposed legislation as “unconstitutional,” and accused the government of trying to impose state control to regulate all segments of media.
“The representatives of the media organizations … vehemently objected to the proposed PMDA, as it appears to be aimed at subjugating the freedom of press and expression,” it said, adding that it seemed to be aiming at tightening the federal government’s control over the media. The proposed law, it stressed, also “ignores the fact that print, electronic and social media are separate entities, each with their own defined features.”
Urging a joint meeting of the Senate and National Assembly on Information to reject the proposed law “completely,” the statement added: “The move to bring [media] under state control smacks of an authoritarian streak that should have no place in democratically elected dispensation.”
The proposed text of the PMDA became public in May—though denied as “fake” by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry—and seeks to replace all existing individual media regulatory bodies with a centralized authority that regulates print, electronic and digital media under one roof.
Among the proposed statutes that activists and media bodies have found objectionable is the requirement for all media outlets to obtain a government license annually to remain operational. Similarly, it calls for adherence to as-yet-undefined code of conduct, with violators facing three to five years’ imprisonment and fines worth millions of rupees. The PMDA has also been empowered to suspend a media outlet; summon a content produce for “explanation”; and penalize media channels without prior warning or opportunity for hearing.
Independent media watchdogs have already declared Pakistan as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with the country ranking 145 out of 180. Reporters Without Borders, earlier this year, declared Prime Minister Imran Khan a “predator” of press freedom, describing him as having “dictatorial tendencies” and overseeing “brazen censorship” during the three years of his administration.