Stakeholders convention rejects PMDA as draconian law

Our Correspondent
Sunday, Oct 10, 2021

MULTAN: A multi-stakeholders convention of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Saturday rejected the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) as a draconian and black law.

It demanded the government immediately withdraw its draft, otherwise the civil society and trade unions would back the PFUJ plans to launch a countrywide agitation.

The convention endorsed the PFUJ decision of not holding any kind of dialogue with the government over the PMDA at any level. It lambasted the government for imposing unannounced censorship, curtailing press freedom and paralysing the whole the press and media industry. The trade unions, political workers, lawyers and civil society pledged standing with the journalist community shoulder by shoulder in the fight for freedom of the press.

The Multan Union of Journalists (MUJ) hosted the convention, held with PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar in the chair at Raza Hall, while representatives from all walks of life participated in it.

The speakers said that those who had been involved in dislodging the democratic governments, subverting the Constitution were patronising the PMDA move, but the journalist community would resist it at all forums.

Former prime minister and opposition leader in Senate Yusuf Raza Gilani said the media had a crucial role to play in protecting the democratic traditions. He said that during the journalist protest in Islamabad, all political leadership strongly opposed curbing of the press freedom. The PPP believes in the power of democracy and Constitution, he said adding that his party would fully support the legitimate demands of journalists.

Senior politician Javed Hashmi paid tribute to journalists for fighting for their rights. He said the PFUJ secretary general was flogged when he was a minister, but he pays him tribute. He pledged that he would always stand with journalists in their struggle for their rights.

PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar said journalists were the vanguard of democracy and a person’s freedom. He said it was their responsibility to stand up against the oppressors and speak for rights. He said they never ever demanded any type of concessions for a journalist on publishing of false news. The government was going to make the law in the guise of fake news, but it would bring a bad name to it always.

He asked Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry to sit down with the journalist bodies and discuss the issue. He said advertisements to the media had been stopped. The PFUJ had no agenda against the government. The PFUJ had its 19 points charter of demand.

He said the PFUJ would launch its march from Quetta in the first week of November. He demanded that expulsion of employees should be stopped, and wage board award should be implemented.

PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said the media crisis was also caused by some forces. He said the proposed Media Development Authority was actually a martial law, adding that a conspiracy was being hatched to completely strangle the press. He said if press was not free in Pakistan, the country would not have a positive image in the world. The country is already at the bottom 145 in terms of press freedom, he added.

He said the media had always challenged every dictator, adding that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had made two laws in favour of the media. He said the journalist bodies wanted the government to withdraw the proposed law and vowed not to hold any talks with the government on the issue.

A spokesperson for Punjab Chief Minister Nadeem Qureshi MPA said the government policy objections were coming up regarding fake news.

He said it was important that they know the facts about any news they were going through today. He said payments of the media houses had been cleared by the government.

Senior journalist Shaukat Ashfaq, MUJ office-bearers Shakil Baloch, Rauf Maan, Shafqat Bhutta and others spoke on the occasion.