September 16, 2021
ISLAMABAD—Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has dispelled the impression that the stakeholders are ready to hold talks over the controversial Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA ) bill.
In a statement issued in Lahore on Thursday, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi said the journalists' fraternity considered PMDA bill a draconian piece of legislation and rejected it in its entirety.
The two leaders said: "The government is trying to give an impression through press releases and statements that the stakeholders are ready to negotiate over PMDA bill, but we want to make it very clear that there cannot be any talks over the PMDA bill or even making another umbrella body or Authority under any other name.
"The entire Action Committee, including PFUJ representative, had made it very clear to the information minister that we will not accept any umbrella body like PMDA and we will only sit with the government to strengthen the existing laws.
"The press release issued after the meeting is also very clear, and it says the stakeholders told the minister that PMDA is also unacceptable. The press release is also clear that we are ready to "further improve" the existing laws."
The PFUJ representative had even earlier told the Senate Standing Committee in the presence of PBA, CPNE, APNS, AEMEND and other stakeholders that even if other stakeholders agree to government's bill, PFUJ will fight against it alone having fought such draconian laws during the martial law periods with the help of the civil society and the people of Pakistan.
"PFUJ considers the controversial bill for the creation of an authoritarian body against the constitution and the spirit of democratic traditions," the statement said. "This proposed bill is meant to stifle media and would turn out to be a disaster for media freedom in the country."
The two leaders made it clear that PFUJ is not opposed to reforms in various laws. "We are ready for reforms in Newspapers Employees Condition of Service Act 1973, formation of the further establishment of ITNE benches in provincial capitals, and wage award for electronic media employees. Reforms could also be made to the ITNE hearing grievances of media persons and others. The journalists' fraternity is ready to talk about the working of PEMRA. It is open to reforms that may be offered to improve the working of the regulatory Authority. However, as far as the Pakistan Media Development Authority bill is concerned, it is a closed chapter for PFUJ. Stakeholders have already rejected it, so there cannot be any talks over it."
The two leaders accused the government of holding talks with fake journalist bodies. "There are some fake bodies that are serving the interest of the establishment, and they have no respect among the ranks and files of media workers. The government is consulting with such fake organizations and wants us to share platforms with such organizations. We want to make it very clear that we will not share any platform with such journalists' unions that are doing the bidding for the establishment to gain some petty interests, ignoring the catastrophic consequences of this draconian piece of legislation."
The two leaders appealed to all the stakeholders to stay united against this draconian legislation that would impose media martial law in the country.
"This is not only the question of media freedom in the country but that of the future of democracy in Pakistan," the statement said, adding, "If this piece of legislation is enacted, the country will plunge into the abyss of fascism."
Photo courtesy: Twitter (@ProgStudentsFed)
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