Pakistan’s freedom of the press is under threat as the Imran Khan-led country’s government is poised to place more curbs by implementing so-called new law Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
Islamabad [Pakistan], August 21 : The move by the information ministry can drag back Pakistan to the era of military dictator General Ziaul Haq under whose regime news content had to be cleared before being printed, an opinion piece in the The News International wrote “Pakistan’s information ministry to place more curbs on journalists by enacting a draconian new law is nothing short of taking the country back to the era of military dictator General Ziaul Haq. Perhaps even worse,” according to Azhar Abbas writing in the Pakistan publication.
He continues writing that the move to establish PMDA is yet another attempt to wield complete control over the mainstream private media and to silence independent voices on social media, The News reported.
Earlier, a senior journalist and author Zahid Hussain, had written in a column in Dawn about how in the “bad old days of Gen Ziaul Haq, newspapers would often carry blank spaces indicating that certain stories had been pulled out by the authorities.”
Almost the entire journalists’ fraternity and media organisations have rejected this move, terming it the “most harsh attempt to muzzle the media.” But the government seems determined in its efforts to get this law passed by parliament.
Journalists have struggled hard over the last few decades to get more space to conduct a serious debate and dialogue on issues of national importance. But the last few years have seen the media go through the worst of times, suffering growing restrictions and intimidation, said Azhar Abbas.
According to the Freedom Network’s annual state of the Press Freedom 2021 report, Pakistan has emerged as the riskiest place to practice journalism with an escalation in attacks and harassment against media persons in the country.
The News International reported that at least 148 cases of attacks and violations against the media and its practitioners, including journalists, took place over the course of one year – between May 2020 and April 2021.
This is an increase by over 40pc from the 91 cases of violations documented in the preceding year (May 2019-April 2020), said the report which has been launched on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day celebrated on 3rd May every year.