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Proposal for regulatory authority opposed by media bodies in Pakistan

ANI | Updated: Jun 02, 2021 12:35 IST

Karachi [Pakistan], June 2 (ANI): Pakistan's media organisations representing journalists, broadcasters, editors and news directors have rejected the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) ordinance, describing it as an 'unconstitutional and draconian law'.
In a joint meeting on Tuesday, the representative media bodies including All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ, Barna Group), PFUJ (Dastoor Group) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) unanimously said that the proposed PMDA was intended to hinder media freedoms and take control over the media by the top information bureaucracy, reported Dawn.
The organisations described the concept as an unconstitutional and draconian law against freedom of press and expression and a step towards imposing state control to regulate all segments of media.
"The concept is an attempt to tighten federal government hold over the media through one draconian authority ignoring the fact that print, digital and electronic media are separate entities each with their own defined features and respective regulatory laws," said APNS executive director Dr Tanvir A Tahir.
"The move appears as an extension of now-defunct Press and Publications Ordinance 1963 (PPO) of Ayub Khan-era to all media platforms with regimental provisions to take over the independent and free media. This has no place in a democratically-elected dispensation," he added.
The media bodies decided that the PMDA establishment would be resisted at all levels including legal recourse, protest measures and advertising campaigns to educate the public against this blatant attempt to subjugate and control the media and curtail peoples' right to know, Dawn reported.

The organisations have also sought to form a joint committee in a bid to seek further support from political parties, bar associations, rights organisations and other segments of the civil society to oppose the proposed "attack on media". They also urged the Imran Khan-led federal government to immediately withdraw the proposal.
The ordinance proposes to repeal all current media-related laws in the country and wants them to be merged under the PMDA.
Journalists and the media are a priority target of Pakistan's military and inter-intelligence services to subjugate freedom of speech, EU Chronicle had reported in October 2020, adding that such actions of intolerance towards independent journalism have increased dramatically since July 2018 when Imran Khan became prime minister.
Not only that, internet freedom in Pakistan has also declined dramatically as in 2020 Imran Khan-led government increased blocking political, social and cultural websites, as well as increased "weaponisation of the cybercrime law as a tool".
The report titled 'Annual Pakistan media legal review 2020' was launched by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) to commemorate the upcoming World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Dawn reported.
"The accumulative effect of these outcomes was that the already unfriendly legal framework governing freedom of expression, right to information and digital rights in Pakistan worsened considerably during 2020," according to the report titled "Growing fear and hate in Pakistani online civic spaces."
In April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that media and content restrictions are a threat to the ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression and association in Pakistan. (ANI)