The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has announced sit-in protests outside the Parliament House against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) on Monday (tomorrow).
The PFUJ has appealed to the journalist community, civil society, human rights groups, trade unions and people from all sections of society to join the sit-in that will be staged on the eve of President Arif Alvi’s address to the joint session of parliament, says a press release.
“It is time to demonstrate unity for a common cause. The proposed PMDA will not just be a body to regulate the media but will serve as the central censorship office of the state aimed at regulating the freedoms of expression of all citizens of Pakistan,” the statement issued by PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and General Secretary Nasir Zaidi said.
“We are appealing to all sections of the media, civil society and concerned citizens from all walks of life to join and participate in the peaceful PFUJ dharna on the morning of September 13 outside the National Assembly in Islamabad,” they said.
A ‘dharna’ camp will be established in front of the Parliament House on Sunday night and the leadership will remain there till the conclusion of the joint sitting of the parliament on Monday.
“The dharna is aimed at demonstrating solidarity and pooling widespread support against the creation of the PMDA and strategising the protection of freedom of expression of citizens, defending the rights of journalists and pre-empting the planned assault on independent media in the country,” the statement said.
The PFUJ leaders said the continuous onslaught by the government on the rights of media workers, safety of journalists and their economic strangulation, had reached its highest limits.
It has left the media teetering on the brink of collapse, said the press release.
“The PMDA is a planned one-window operation to impose widespread censorship through pooling of the budgets of several media regulators thereby providing massive resources to government proxies to crackdown on the media so that it becomes totally captured and too weak to provide professional coverage of upcoming elections,” the statement added.
“The proposed PMDA, therefore, is not just a media manipulation mechanism, it will also serve to undermine democracy and parliamentary system, which is why it is necessary for all journalists, workers, students, teachers, lawyers, activists and other citizens to join this dharna to foil the nefarious designs against democracy and free media in Pakistan,” the PFUJ leaders said.
The Rawalpindi Islamabad Journalists Union (RIUJ) will also join the sit-in outside the Parliament House.
The rally will be led by PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar, Secretary General Nasir Zaidi, Chairman Joint Action Committee of the RIUJ Afzal Butt, NPC President Shakeel Anjum, RIUJ President Amir Sajjad Syed and others.
The Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, civil society, trade unions, student organisations have announced to participate in the protest rally and sit-in.
The joint action committee of different media organisations that include Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), the PFUJ, and the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) have supported the protest campaign.
All opposition parties, including the Pakistan Democratic Movement and the PPP, have already rejected the proposed PDMA bill, expressing solidarity with journalists and participating in the sit-in.
Off-screen anchors will hold their talk shows during the sit-in.