As journalists set up a protest camp outside the Parliament House on Sunday night against the government’s proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), opposition leaders from different political parties joined in to show solidarity with newsmen and criticise the government.
Politicians who joined the protest included senior PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, Senator Akram Dashti and Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party, and PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb. JUI-F leaders and several members of the National Assembly from opposition parties also joined the protest.
Addressing the journalists, Abbasi said that while journalism is becoming more and more independent across the globe, the opposite is happening in Pakistan.
“Laws regarding how to control the press are being introduced in Pakistan under the guise of the PMDA,” Abbasi said, adding that if the government had some problems with the content being aired by different channels, then merely phoning the channel concerned would have been enough instead of creating an entity like PMDA.
Abbasi said that in countries where the press is not free, its citizens are not free either.
“It is the constitutional right of the people of the country to express their views; we are not talking about politics here,” Abbasi said. “Was the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) not enough that we needed another media authority?”
He said that military dictators that ruled Pakistan from Ayub Khan to Pervez Musharraf made attempts to suppress the press, adding that the incumbent PTI government is following the same path by trying to silence journalists.
“Today, policemen are standing with sticks in their hands to stop journalists [from protesting]” Abbasi pointed out. “An attempt is being made to bring such a law to suppress the truth.”
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also addressed the protesting crowd and said that the PTI-led government’s proposed media authority law is “not only devised to suppress journalism but it is an attempt to eliminate journalists.”