Islamabad, May 03, 2021: Addressing the ruling party’s ordinance-gardi, PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said, “Higher Education Commission HEC Ordinance is not being laid in the Senate nor is it becoming a bill. What is the purpose of this Parliament if they want to run the country through ordinances? This is extremely worrying. Our rights and responsibilities are being compromised. The President House has become an ordinance factory”.
“Moving on to another worrying development, the government has now come up with the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Ordinance 2021, which will now be used as a tool for institutionalising censorship and curbing media freedom. This is a combination of Zia and Musharraf’s black laws. Is this the direction the government wants to take us towards?” she questioned.
Rehman said, “We have no objections on regulating the media but trying to control the narrative and quashing all sane and critical voices is another issue which needs to be addressed. It’s a matter of shame and embarrassment that the world now sees Islamabad as the most dangerous place for journalism. Silencing the media means silencing us. This Ordinance needs to be laid in the house so we can regulate it”.
“PPP ensured that Zia and Musharraf’s black laws are repealed but this government is bringing the same laws back under the guise of this new ordinance. A lot of our hard work and struggle had gone into this to ensure that our democracy can flourish but the government wants to suppress the media through this mini martial law,” she added.
Rehman asked, “If you disagree with the government, you are labelled as a traitor. Constructive criticism needs to be tolerated. We already have penalties in Pakistan but the penalties that they want to bring through this ordinance are atrocious. We already have IT and regulation committees, let them do their job”.
“Pakistan was ranked 139th on the World Press Freedom Index when this government came into power and three years later, we are 145th on the list. The voices of the opposition and media are being stifled. Through this ordinance, the government is saying that you will not be able to get a license if you don’t become a mouthpiece for us. Any kind of independent reporting will lead to your channel being shut down,” she added.
Rehman said, “Organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists have taken notice of the journalists being attacked in Pakistan. In 2020, Pakistan ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalist’s annual Global Impunity Index. The shrinking space for dissent is being noticed by everyone”.
“In case they need a reminder, it was the ruling party which started the tradition of trolling on social media. People with their party flags are involved in using abusive language, ridiculing politicians, and harassing women online. The government does not realise the repercussions this PMDA Ordinance will have and it is something they seriously need to review. This is our country and we will do whatever it takes to protect democracy in Pakistan,” concluded Vice President PPPP Senator Sherry Rehman.