Media tribunals

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The worrying announcement by the PTI government of setting up media tribunals in a bid to taking up complaints against the media is a worrying indicator of dwindling freedom of speech and press in the country. The main principle behind having an independent media is to provide a means of checks and balances on the state; the criticism the government is facing is simply due to the media fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to the public. If the state chooses to turn this equation on its head and instead look to monitor perceived transgressions by these platforms, then who is left to ensure that the government is doing its job?
The government wants the media and members of the opposition to be held accountable, but does it believe itself to be above such concerns? Dissent is quickly becoming unacceptable in PTI’s Naya Pakistan and for a democratic government to attempt gagging the press is a direct attack on the democratic norms the ruling party claims to stand for. The government, through its accountability drive, has already locked up a significant portion of opposition behind bars. Any move to clamp down on media will make others in society, academics and civil society works primarily, also fearful that they might be next in line.
The only silver lining here is that, in the past year, the government has had a difficult time in getting any major legislation passed through parliament. At this critical time when government is agitating and criticising Modi’s Regime for curbs and control on media in Kashmir we should think at our end also. The government must remember that the people who voted for it believe in a democratic system, not a police state, and an independent press, free from fetters by the government, is a key component in the whole exercise. Every attempt by the government to repress freedom of press will be resisted by society.
QAZI JAMSHED SIDDIQUI
Lahore

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