Friday, 7 October, 2022
HomeGo To PakistanPakistani journalists are protesting Imran Khan’s ‘black’ law. Shehbaz Sharif is all...

Pakistani journalists are protesting Imran Khan’s ‘black’ law. Shehbaz Sharif is all ears

The proposed regulatory body, PMDA, will have the authority to impose sanctions on media entities in case these rules are violated.

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Pakistani journalists are outside the country’s parliament not to cover it but protest against a black law that proposes to muzzle the voice of free press. Prominent media bodies have described the new legislation as draconian and unconstitutional.

The journalists are opposing the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), which the government has proposed in order to “regulate films, electronic, print and digital media in Pakistan”. The regulatory body will be formed under the Pakistan Media Development Authority, Ordinance, 2021, which had been promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi back in May.

On Sunday, journalists — representatives of several media associations in the country — marched from the National Press Club to Parliament House, a day ahead of the joint session of parliament, which will include an address by the President.

General secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the main body behind the demonstrations, Nasir Zaidi was quoted by Dawn as saying during the protest that the PMDA was meant to stifle the voice of the media.

Abbas Nasir, Dawn’s former editor, too came down heavily on the Imran Khan government.

 


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What is PMDA

According to the government’s proposal, the PMDA is envisioned to replace the “fractured” regulatory environment and “fragment” media regulation by multiple bodies.

An article in Dawn newspaper had noted that the PMDA will be “given the authority to register digital media platforms, monitor, and analyse them and ensure the enforcement of cyber laws”.

Regulations will be framed under the PMDA over the content published and shared by digital media. The proposed regulatory body will have the authority to impose sanctions on media entities in case these rules are violated.

The PMDA will also have the power to “issue no-objection certificates (NOCs) for film production and exhibition, issue licenses for and monitor broadcast media, and register print media entities”, the Dawn article noted.


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The backlash

The legislation also drew the ire of Pakistani journalists in London, where a protest was held outside the Pakistan High Commission.

Several prominent journalists and politicians in the country also took to Twitter to express their criticism.

Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, said that the only objective of the PMDA is to rob the media of its independence and stifle free speech. “PTI government is demolishing every institution that represents democracy. We support journalists in their struggle against PMDA,” he tweeted saying.

Marriyum Aurangzeb, member of the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League (N) spokesperson, wrote on Twitter saying, “Draconian measures of fascist Imran Khan to block democratic & peaceful protest by journalists from across the country against the BLACK Pakistan Media Development Authority-(PMDA) law #PMDA_Rejected.”

Kamran Khan, editor-in-chief of Dunya Media Group, said that journalists and editors across the country can “smell a rat” in the government’s move and Prime Minister Imran Khan should withdraw the proposal.

“General impression all across is that the move is designed to bolster powers of the government to censor and restrict the media,” Khan’s tweet read.

Then there was journalist Gharidah Farooqi who tweeted with a picture of her along with several women journalists ahead of Sunday’s protest march. “Journalists are united across Pakistan to protest against proposed PMDA,” Farooqi wrote.

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