Empty media gallery bewilders President Alvi

our correspondents & News Report
Tuesday, Sep 14, 2021

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi Monday addressed the joint sitting of Parliament, with an empty media gallery and the opposition members protesting inside and outside of the Parliament House.

During his speech, the president acknowledged the role of the media in curbing spread of the coronavirus. However, he was visibly confused when he looked towards the empty press gallery, reports Geo News.

The president apparently had no idea why the press gallery was empty. Before the commencement of the joint session, media personnel and journalists had been forbidden from entering the press gallery.

According to a Geo News report, Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) members tried inquiring about the situation but they could not find out as to who had issued the orders to block the press from entering the Parliament.

When Federal Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry was questioned about the move by a reporter, he said he had no idea about it. “It might be closed because of coronavirus,” he told the reporter, and then asked her if journalists had inquired from the speaker’s office about the move.

The press galleries were closed to prevent the media from covering the presidential address, as a day earlier, the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) had expressed reservations about issuance of invitation cards to a select group of people having nothing to do with the coverage of the Parliament.

According to PRA, the speaker, under the government pressure, ordered closure of press galleries apprehending a protest and walkout by the parliamentary reporters from the galleries against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PDMA) bill.

The PRA had announced staging a walkout from the press galleries to register their protest against the draconian legislation. “The parliamentary reporters, who were issued invitation cards, were also confined to the cafeteria,” Asif Bashir Chaudhry, the PRA General Secretary, said.

He said it was an unusual act of closing the press galleries, which was never experienced even during the dictators’ era. About one-and-a-half hours before start of the joint session, the security staff received orders to close the press galleries.