September 13, 2021

By Ahmed Saeed and Hamid Riaz

Text by Rehan Piracha


Despite a two-day long sit-in outside the Parliament House, where journalists gathered against the PMDA, the government continues to maintain its silence on whjournalists

ether it will continue to push forth the black law.

On the other side, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Monday said it had successfully accomplished its first phase of struggle against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill with the holding of its sit-in front of Parliament on Monday.

Throughout the day, leaders of opposition parties, student unions and members of civil society visited the sit-in camp to express solidarity with protesting journalists, expressing their support against the federal government’s proposed measure to bringing the country’s entire a single regularity authority.

Speaking to after the conclusion of the sit-in outside Parliament House, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar called the sit-in protest a successful first phase of the movement against the proposed PMDA law. “The success of the sit-in was a result of the unity among journalists,” he said.

Zulfiqar said they thanked the federal government for highlighting the case against the proposed PMDA by raising dummy journalists’ bodies overnight and made them hold a march on Constitution Avenue, adding that the failed government tactic had helped establish the credibility of the sit-in camp. “None of the opposition political parties visited the protest of the dummy bodies,” he added.

The PFUJ president said the sit-in had successfully garnered support against the proposed PMDA law as leaders from all opposition political parties, civil society representatives, lawyers, and rights activists visited their sit-in camp to express solidarity with the journalists.

Zulfiqar said the PFUJ would forge ahead with its movement in the coming days, adding that the sit-in had sown confusion in the government ranks. “The government stopped reporters from leaving press gallery and suspended mobile service around the sit-in area shows their bafflement,” the PFUJ president said.

“One thing is certain that the present government won’t stand for long as now opposition parties, lawyers and citizens would join the PFUJ movement against the PMDA in the thousands on the streets,” he said.

Explaining the next course of action, Zulfiqar said the PFUJ would announce its next phase of the movement after a meeting in Lahore in the coming days. Asked whether they would hold a long march next, Zulfiqar explained that the PFUJ had announced a long march from Quetta in March but had postponed it due to the COVID pandemic wave. “The long march was to rally support for the 19-point charter of demands including censorship, threats to journalists, misuse of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority, and institution of cases through Federal Investigation Agency against journalists,” he said. The PFUJ leader said the government gave no response to the charter of demands.

In the meanwhile, Zulfiqar said, the government unveiled its plan for the establishment of the PMDA. “The proposed PMDA has sort of helped the PFUJ to bring together journalists, lawyers, civil society, opposition parties and people on a single platform,” he explained, adding that the government would soon realise the significance of what the PFUJ has accomplished.


Reporters locked in parliament to stop the walkout

Asif Bashir Chaudhry, Secretary-General of Parliamentary Reporters Association told that the parliamentary reporters had planned a peaceful walkout against the PMDA during President Arif Alvi’s address to the joint sitting but the government locked the press gallery. “It reflects the government’s mindset that there is no room for journalistic freedom in the country,” he said.

Participating in the sit-in, journalist Asad Ali Toor said the government was very clandestine in their manner regarding the proposed PMDA law. “If the government has good intentions, then they should present us the draft of the bill and open debate with parliamentarians and media stakeholders. But they are not showing us the draft at all,” he lamented.


Several politicians and heads of parties including Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz President Shahbaz Sharif visited the sit-in camp and expressed support with the protesting journalists in their addresses.

“The media fought for its independence itself, it was not served to it on a platter. None can snatch away this freedom and neither will we let them,” Shahbaz Sharif told protesting journalists while visiting the sit-in outside Parliament.

He said the media had fought a war for its freedom and no one could snatch it. The PML-N president said he would protest the issue with other opposition leaders in the National Assembly and try to achieve consensus with PPP and other political parties.

In his address, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal expressed solidarity with the journalists against the PMDA. “Any society which snuffs out freedom of expression is on the path to dictatorship and fascism,” he said.

MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb promised that PML-N will not let the PMDA pass into law. She also mentioned that she was told that she cannot chair the sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Information after yesterday’s speech, stating that it was a direct attempt to “dictate her”.


Bilawal Bhutto also addressed the protest, saying that journalists in the country had bravely fought against and defeated former president Pervez Musharraf in the past, and they would also put up a fight against the incumbent government and its decisions challenging media freedom.

“This is not the first time a black law has been brought in. Whenever a “selected” leader comes in, they bring in a black law to strangle the voice of the people,” he said while conversing with award-winning journalist Hamid Mir at the sit-in.


In her address to participants of the sit-in, Senator Sherry Rehman asserted that the PPP is committed to defeating all dictatorial laws, including the PMDA, that are being brought in through the “back door” by the current government.


Senator Raza Rabbani applauded the role of journalists for struggling for their rights, freedom of the media, the supremacy of the constitution, the strengthening of the judiciary, and ensuring freedom of expression throughout Pakistan’s history while visiting the sit-in.


The journalists from across the country had marched on Sunday to Parliament House against the federal government’s proposed PMDA. They set up an overnight sit-in camp for Monday’s protest during President Arif Alvi’s address to the joint sitting of both houses.



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