ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has opposed the government’s decision to establish a media regulatory authority, endorsing the views earlier expressed by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors.

A joint statement issued by Afzal Butt, who heads his own faction of the PFUJ, and Ayub Jan Sarhandi, its secretary general, said the union would not accept “draconian laws”.

“Establishing such an authority will be an act worse than the Press and Publications Ordinance promulgated by former military dictator Ayub Khan,” Mr Butt and Mr Sarhandi observed.

They said the establishment of the proposed authority (PMRA) was shrouded in mystery as the government had yet to share the draft with the stakeholders.

“The PFUJ has come to know that the draft for the establishment of PMRA has provisions related to cruel punishments for violations, which have not been made public. Aimed at introducing a system of annual licensing for print media, establishment of PMRA is akin to making the press subservient to the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” the statement said. “This is in violation of Article 19 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.”

Establishment of a federal institution to regulate printing and publication, which is a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment, will be construed as interference in the provinces’ domain and is, therefore, in violation of the Constitution, the PFUJ faction contended.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2019