Staff Report Islamabad
The Opposition parties on Monday vowed to stop the government from passing legislation in the Parliament on the “draconian” Pakistan Media Development Authority, which has invited severe criticism from all media stakeholders.
Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addressing the journalists outside the Parliament, said that this is not the first time the journalists are protesting against a black law.
Journalists fought against similar laws by dictators General Ayub Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had abolished all restrictions against journalists.
We had removed all restrictions imposed by General Musharraf and cleansed of the constitution from all such restrictions and black laws through 18th amendment. He said that the PPP is against PECA and it is against PMDA.
This PMDA is an attack on journalists, democracy, judiciary and the right of employment of journalists. We will oppose this PMDA in parliament and every forum. PPP Jiyalas will join you wherever you give a call all over Pakistan.
Responding to questions by senior journalists like Hamid Mir, Aasma Shirazi and others the Chairman PPP said that the draft of PMDA is the same draft which the government wanted to impose as an ordinance.
If the government bulldozes it in the parliament we will challenge it in courts. We have doubts that this government will pass this law in a joint session of the parliament but we will challenge it at every available forum.
Chairman PPP said that in Monday’s session the PPP will raise two issues in the parliament. One is your struggle against this black law PMDA and other issue is of sacking 20,000 employees unjustifiably by the court.
If the parliament can reinstate the Chief Justice of Supreme Court then why it cannot reinstate sacked employees? These employees were first sacked in 1997 when they were about 30 years old and now they are sacked again when most of them have crossed 50 years of age.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the responses which we have received from the high officials and police department about the attacks on journalists are not satisfactory and the effected journalists are also not satisfied with these responses.
He said that all the political parties have similar stand on the independence of media. Replying a question about his relations with the opposition politicians Chairman PPP said that he has very good relations with all of them and Maulana fazalur Rehman is doing politics for decades with the PPP and he has a lot of respect for him. He said that we can have difference of opinion politically.
He said that every dictator wanted to weaken the journalists but the journalists stood by the truth in the era of General Zia and Musharraf. The journalists have the capacity to wash out this black law called PMDA.
He said that as long as the question of legitimacy of this government is concerned, all the opposition parties consider it as an illegitimate government.
“We wanted and still want to bring no-confidence against this government because we have proved that the government could be dislodged in this way by the success of Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani as Senator from the national assembly.
About fifth generation war, Chairman PPP said that these ministers and the salaried social media persons cannot defend Pakistan in this fifth generation war where every country in the world is fighting on social media against its enemy.
These salaried social media activists who issue twitter messages against their own citizens cannot fight this war.
The capable and renowned journalists can fight this war way better as they are known and respected internationally and they are accepted as impartial journalists.
Their defence will be accepted world over. He said that it is pointless to link defence day speech of the army chief to this black law PMDA as the minister of information is doing.
Meanwhile, addressing the protest, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif said he condemned the “draconian” PMDA and vowed to not let the government pass legislation on it in the Parliament.
“All of PDM’s (Pakistan Democratic Movement) parties support journalists […] the media has always fought for its freedom,” the Opposition leader told the protesters.
The PML-N leader assured that nor did the government have it in itself and neither will his party allow the government to legislate on the media authority.
Later, Federal Minister for Information and Technology Aminul Haque said MQM-P has a clear stance on the PMDA — all stakeholders should be made a part of any media-related legislation.
“I request the government to speak to the journalists in this regard […] I am against the restrictions being enforced on the media and stand with journalists,” he said.
Later on, JUI-F President Maulana Fazlur Rehman also joined the protest and expressed solidarity with the media workers and civil society members, saying that his party “will not accept the laws that contradict the constitution.”
He said that democratic politics is always in the favour of media’s freedom. “All of us are united on the freedom of media, said Fazl, adding that the JUI was the first party to decide to oppose the PMDA.