August 17th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Journalist bodies have out rightly rejected the misleading statements made by federal minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry in support of the proposed Bill for the creation of Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
The federal Minister had earlier claimed that press clubs have supported the formation of the proposed Authority (PMDA). He said that the journalist bodies should not comment on the bill without reading it. He also said that the government is ready to amend the bill as per suggestions of the journalist bodies.
The journalist bodies, however rejected all the statements and said all the press clubs throughout the country as well journalists’ unions have already rejected the proposed Authority.
“By issuing such misleading statements to justify the creation of Media Authority, the Information Minister is not only damaging his own credibility but also that of the government,”
The statement, jointly issued by journalist bodies President Shahzada Zulfikar and Secretary General Nasir, said the proposed Authority is actually being formed to deny freedom of press and control the media institutions.
What is PMDA?
According to the proposed legislation, the PMDA will be sole regulatory body for all kind of media including digital, print, broadcast and film. All other media regulatory bodies like PEMRA, PPC will be abolished or merged into PMDA.
According to the proposed draft of the bill. The PMDA will have the authority to impose sanctions and huge fines on media houses in case of any violations of the law and greater control on the content published and shared on digital media.
The bill also envisioned the creation of media tribunals to be operated by the PMDA. The decisions taken by the media tribunals can only be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Journalist Bodies urges govt to consult with press bodies
“No sane person or institution can endorse such an Authority and journalist bodies will resist this law with its fullest force”, the statement said.
“History Is witness that journalist bodies have always resisted such black laws designed to deprive people of their civil liberties, Freedom of Press and free speech,” the journalist bodies said adding “we will resist Pakistan Media Development Authority Bill by all means at our disposal.”
The journalist bodies urged the PTI government to immediately call a meeting of all the stakeholders of media industry and real leadership of journalists’ community for the development of a consensus law or amendments in all the existing laws for the regulation of entire media related industries.
“We are not opposed to improvement in the existing laws but will not allow anyone to tamper civil liberties or put restrictions on the freedom of press under any garb.”
Azhar Abbas, Managing Director Geo-News, who was also part of the consultative meetings held by the government points towards a deliberate campaign by the PTI led government to create confusion about the controversial bill. “The government wants the people to believe that all journalistic and media bodies they consulted with have given their approval to the proposed legislation but I want to clarify that no such approval has been given,” says Azhar Abbas.
Azhar Abbas told voicepk.net that the government has not even provided media organizations with a complete copy of the draft bill “How can you hope to hold meaningful consultations on a bill if you have not even provided is with a complete draft,” he laments.
PPP vows to resist PMDA
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has pledged to fight against the incumbent government`s efforts to gag freedom of expression through the PMDA.
Punjab PPP senior vice president Chaudhry Aslam Gill and deputy general secretary Usman Malik said that the party would resist all attempts to impose a `curfew` on the freedom of expression through the media authority.
They said the incumbent rulers were bent upon implementing a self-serving agenda by force but the PPP would fight every law that curbed freedoms, for states cannot be run through restrictions and ordinances.