Islamabad, September 13, 2021: Expressing her support for protesting journalists outside the parliament, PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said, “The government is on a collision course with democracy: all independent institutions are challenged or being dismantled. From constitutional ones to media freedoms, all that we fought so hard for are being rolled back by this regime seeking to silence dissent to its draconian path”.
“All of civil society, journalist organizations, political parties have rejected the PMDA but government still continues to ignore the voice of the people to push ahead a law it wants to keep secret from parliament. Why the cloak and dagger? Why has the draft not been shared with the parliamentary committee?” she asked.
Rehman said, “We have repealed all the ordinances regarding media censorship, whether it was by Ayub Khan or Zia-Ul-Haq. This is why the government is not bringing this issue on the Parliament floor because they know that we will repeal the PMDA bill and they are scared. PTI government wants to take Pakistan back into a dark era but we will not let them do this”.
“Media regulatory laws need to be made in collaboration with key stakeholders and journalist institution otherwise they have no meaning. Our journalists are protesting against PMDA, a bill that has not been submitted to the Parliament floor and has been categorically rejected by key stakeholders. Why is there such a lack of transparency regarding this bill?” she questioned.
Rehman said, “This is not the first time that PTI is doing this, they’ve been trying to control the media since the first time they came assumed power in 2018. PMDA is yet another draconian attempt to gag the media in unprecedented ways and is akin to the censorship seen during the dictatorial regime of Zia-ul-Haq, undoing the democratic process that elected PTI into government in the first place”.
“Freedom of speech and press are fundamental human rights. Not only does PMDA infringe on these rights but is also undemocratic and unconstitutional as it circumvents article 18, 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The PTI government has a pattern of exercising authoritarian leadership and is using PMDA to bypass criticism of its otherwise incompetent and corrupt government,” she added.
Rehman said, “PTI government is so scared of dissent that they don’t realise that freedom of press leads to competitive, high-quality journalism which directly aids the democratic process. If anything, Pakistan needs reforms that promote freedom of speech, freedom of press and puts checks & balances in place to prevent PEMRA from exercising abuse of power as it has often done in the past”.
“The PPP has spent decades fighting such laws; it will not stand by and watch while such neo-fascist tools are rolled out. Telling truth to power is not a crime. We categorically oppose this fascist bill and demand that PMDA is debated on the parliament floor. Vice President PPP, Senator Sherry Rehman
She also took notice of closing the parliament’s press gallery for journalists and said, “It is shameful and condemnable that parliamentary reporters have been banned from sitting in the press gallery of Parliament for joint session today. This is the first time that something like this has happened in the history of Pakistan. It was not even done during the martial law era. Why is the government feeling threatened by the journalists? The joint session will be attended by diplomats and ambassadors of different countries, what message is the government sending internationally? We strongly condemn this move”.