Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pakistani journalists rally against new law undermining press freedom

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Pakistani journalists on Monday held countrywide protests against a controversial piece of legislation that prescribes restrictions on the media through punishments and is seen as a fresh attack on press freedom.

The bill stipulates a three-month prison sentence or a fine or both, over the publication of a report on the proceedings of a provincial assembly or of a committee before it was reported to the assembly or published in the official gazette.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, PFUJ, an umbrella organisation for several media workers’ bodies, called for the protests.

“We will resist and continue our protest until the draconian law is revoked,’’ PFUJ secretary-general Nasir Zaidi told dpa.

The law was against democratic rights and the spirit of the constitution.

We have no doubt that it was designed to silence the media which are already controlled by a tight censorship policy, he said.

Hundreds of media workers, rights activists and civil society representatives gathered in front of the Punjab assembly building in Lahore.

They were wearing black bands and carrying placards demanding press freedom.

Earlier, the PFUJ issued a statement against the rare unanimous approval of the bill and said, “The law is proof that political parties are against the freedom of the press, transparency and accountability.’’

Pakistani media and journalists have faced threats and harassment since the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in 2018 after elections tainted by allegations of manipulation by the military.

dpa/NAN

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