Opposition vows to block media authority bill

Fawad advises Shehbaz to read newspapers before making comments


Our Correspondent September 13, 2021
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing a rally in Kotli, Azad Jammu and Kashmir on June 26, 2021. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

The opposition parties have vowed to stop the government from passing the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill through the assembly, expressing its solidarity with the journalistic fraternity.

On Monday, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto joined journalists outside parliament in their protest against the government’s proposed bill.

Media organisations have unanimously rejected the piece of legislation, which according to them is an attempt to muzzle press freedom.

Addressing the gathering, Shehbaz said the PML-N strongly condemns the “black law” of PMDA and vowed that they would not allow the government to pass the bill.

“All parties of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) stand with you [journalists]. We warn the government against tabling such a bill in assembly or else they will have to bear the brunt,” he added.

“No one can steal freedom from the media,” Shehbaz said, adding that the opposition would protest and stage a walkout in joint session of parliament. The opposition leader added that they would not disappoint the media.

In his address, PPP Chairman Bilawal also termed the proposed PMDA bill a ‘black law’.

“Military dictators or selected leaders used such draconian measures to control the media,” he said, adding that the PPP was opposed to the PMDA as it was also an “attack on democracy and judiciary”.

He was of the view that journalists were being deprived of their right to appeal through the proposed law.

Read More: Rights of journalists ‘being ensured in PMDA’

The PPP chairperson said he would raise his voice in parliament for journalists of the country.

He claimed that his party had removed restrictions imposed on the media by military dictators and chided the incumbent government for “dragging the military into politics”.

In response to a question, Bilawal said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had no reason to link the controversial legislation with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s Defence Day speech as such remarks made the national institution “controversial”.

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, later talking to the media after Bilawal’s address, said that journalism and democracy are intertwined.

Vowing to stand by the journalist community, Fazl said the government intends to bring much “unconstitutional” legislation but the opposition would not stay silent on them.

“We will invite all political parties for an anti-government march from the PDM platform,” he added.

Reacting to the opposition leader’s statement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said Shehbaz’s resolve of not leaving the sit-in camp till the abolishment of the PMDA bill has exposed the latter’s capabilities.

In a tweet, he asked Shehbaz to keep himself abreast about the prevailing situation before issuing any wrong statement about the PMDA bill, which has not yet been passed by parliament.

“If no law has been passed yet, how will it abolish. For God’s sake, Shehbaz should not read anything else, just read the newspapers before commenting on any issue,” he added.

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