Pakistan: Journalists, lawyers, activists protest outside parliament against new media laws

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Hundreds of journalists in Pakistan gathered outside the Parliament House on Sunday to protest against the proposed ‘Pakistan Media Development Authority’ (PMDA) law.
The call for the sit-in was given by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and a number of scribe groups, opposition parties, lawyers and the representatives of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan participated in it, Express Tribune reported. “The government intended to bring PMDA and electronic voting machines to rig the elections,” and now “media martial law is being slapped on the media through the PMDA,” Shazia Atta Marri, who is the Central Information Secretary of Pakistan People Party said during the sit-in.
Meanwhile, the journalists affiliated with different news organisations and press associations have termed the law against article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to the people.
They also informed that “the proposed legislation would not only deprive journalists and media organizations of the press freedom but would also deprive civil society, students, lawyers, teachers, law-makers, trade unions, political, religious activists and in fact 220 million population of the country of their basic rights,” The News International reported.
Despite being a democratic state, Pakistan continues to suppress free speech in digital spaces, stopping its citizens from participating in the working of the state by depriving them of a resourceful channel for vocalizing their concerns.
Writer Mehmil Khalid cites an assessment report ‘Pakistan Freedom of Expression Report 2020’ by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) to say that the country performed poorly in all the indicators that determine free speech and that the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the digital censorship in Pakistan.
Pakistan scored 30 points out of 100 on the assessment report index, which analysts say proves the fact that the government has placed curbs on free speech and disallowed people to talk especially about the pandemic and the related information.

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