Politicians, civil society express solidarity with journalists in protest against proposed media authorityPakistan
Political parties, student unions and members of civil society continued to express solidarity with protesting journalists outside Parliament House in Islamabad on Monday, joining them in raising their voice against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill.
The protesting journalists had marched on Sunday from the National Press Club and reached outside the Parliament House. They have been staging a sit-in since and say the protest will continue till President Dr Arif Alvi’s address to the joint session of parliament, which is scheduled to convene at 4pm on Monday (today).
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb and MNA Mohsin Dawar, among others, visited the protest site on Sunday night to express solidarity with the journalists.
Several politicians, including Senator Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani of the PPP, visited the protest camp on Monday and addressed the protesters.
Aurangzeb, along with PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, also visited the protest site on Monday.
Addressing the protesters, Iqbal lambasted the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for "attacking and attempting to muzzle" the media.
Referring to the PMDA bill, he dubbed it a "conspiracy" and said if the bill was passed, "democracy will die in this country".
The PML-N leader vowed to resist the "fascist law".
Expressing solidarity with journalists, he added, "You (journalists) have survived gunshots, kidnappings and economic murder as you were fired from your jobs, but you didn't stop speaking the truth and I salute you for this."
He recalled that journalists had also staged protests when the PML-N was in the government.
"But we took it sportingly," Iqbal added.
Later, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressed the protest, saying that Pakistani journalists had bravely fought against and defeated former president Pervez Musharraf in the past and he was confident that would also courageously fight against the incumbent “stooge” prime minister.
“I believe as far as the legitimacy of the government and media freedom are concerned, all [of us] are on the same page,” he added.
Meanwhile, police remained deployed outside the Parliament House as a security measure.
PML-N President and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif is also expected to address the protesters later today and journalist Hamid Mir plans to host a talk show from the site of the sit-in.
The protest call was given by various journalist bodies, headed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Reporters Association had also announced that reporters would boycott the presidential address in protest against the proposed media authority.
The PMDA has been conceived as a regulatory body that can “cater to the professional and business requirements of all forms of media and their users”, according to a government proposal, and is meant to replace the current “fractured” regulatory environment and “fragmented” media regulation by multiple bodies.
This means that according to the proposal, the PMDA solely will be responsible for the regulation of print, broadcast and digital media in Pakistan.
Under an ordinance drafted for the establishment of the authority, all previous laws pertaining to media regulation, control or indirect control will likely be abolished and fresh legislation will be enacted, giving legal cover to the PMDA and its functions.
However, the opposition and journalist see the bill as an attempt to curtail the independence of media.
Addressing the protesters in Islamabad on Sunday, senior journalists representing various associations of media workers vowed to resist the government move to enforce the PMDA, terming it an effort to gag the press.