ISLAMABAD: Protesting against the government’s plan to bulldoze the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) legislation through a joint sitting of parliament, the journalist fraternity began a sit-in outside the Parliament House here on Sunday evening.
The protesting journalists marched from the National Press Club and reached outside the Parliament House where they planned to stay overnight, as they said the sit-in would continue till President Dr Arif Alvi’s address to the joint session of parliament, which is scheduled to assemble at 4pm on Monday (today).
Addressing the protesters, 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.
The protest call was given by various journalist bodies, headed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
Fraternity members continue to hold sit-in outside Parliament House overnight
PFUJ general secretary Nasir Zaidi in his speech said the journalist community had rejected the proposed PMDA because it was meant to stifle the voice of media.
Senior journalist Afzal Butt said many attempts had been made in the past too to silence the media by dictators, but journalists successfully fought for their rights and this time too, the journalist community would protect freedom of the press.
The government through the PMDA was trying to impose ‘media martial law’, said senior journalist Imtiaz Alam. He reminded the relevant authorities that in digital age one could not stop fake news until journalists were allowed to work independently and speak the truth.
The protesting journalists were of the opinion that the government through the proposed media authority was attempting to abolish the Newspapers Employees Act as well.
Solidarity with journalists
Several politicians, including former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb and MNA Mohsin Dawar, visited the protesting camp and expressed solidarity with journalists.
Just a day ago, the Parliamentary Reporters Association had announced that reporters would boycott the presidential address in protest against the proposed media authority.
Also, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had recently announced its support for journalists in their fight against the proposed media authority. SCBA president Latif Afridi was of the opinion that ‘power brokers’ were striving to enslave the media and judiciary in Pakistan and the proposed PMDA was one of the channels to achieve this nefarious design.
Similarly, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed serious concern over the proposed authority.
Former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb in a series of tweets said Imran Khan had abused the state machinery to block democratic and peaceful protest by journalists across the country against the PMDA black law. She reminded the nation that the same PTI had staged a 120-day sit-in at D-Chowk, attacked, battered and wounded policemen, hung dirty laundry on the august building of the Supreme Court, cursed parliament, attacked the Prime Minister House, gave a call for civil disobedience and asked people to reject formal banking channels and conduct financial transactions through hundi to sabotage national economy.
However, she added, the same PTI did not allow journalists their right to peaceful protest and deployed scores of security personnel and put up barricades to prevent protests against the tyrannical media development authority legislation that seeks to gag news media and silence the truth.