Freedom of press non-existent under fascist party: Bilawal

Published July 9, 2019
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressing a press conference in Islamabad on July 9, 2019. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressing a press conference in Islamabad on July 9, 2019. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto on Tuesday complained that the freedom of press had become 'non-existent' under the incumbent government, which he criticised as being "led by a fascist party".

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said: "I heard last night that three TV channels — Channel 24, AbTak and Capital TV — had been pulled off-air without any notice or due process. This is an absolutely obnoxious and outrageous attack on the freedom of the press."

"[The media and journalists] are being pressurised. Journalists are being forced to compromise on their personal freedom," he said, adding: "Journalists cannot express their views freely in newspapers, and they cannot tweet on their Twitter accounts. If they [dare to] do so, their Twitter accounts will be shut."

"I have already said, also on the floor of the National Assembly, that censorship does not resolve issues. Once again, the frustration you are suppressing today will find a way out one day in one way or another and it will have negative consequences," he warned.

"You can't answer these questions, and I can't answer these questions: [How can] an interview of [a notorious terrorist and former spokesperson of TTP] Ehsanullah Ehsan be aired; India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) spy Kalbhoshan Jhadev be aired; Indian Pilot Abhinandan's interview be aired, an interview of a former dictator, fugitive and traitor can be aired, but interviews of youth from erstwhile Fata are not allowed to be aired; the interview of a former prime minister cannot be aired; and now the interview of a former president also cannot be aired."

He said he wanted to ask the nation if this is what freedom looks like.

The statement comes a day after the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) allegedly took three news channels off-air from cable networks without assigning a reason or giving them a hearing.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) said in a press release yesterday that a complaint had been lodged by three of its members — AabTak, 24News and CapitalTV — against Pemra.

PBA had demanded Pemra to "restore these channels immediately and follow its laid down rules in case there was any complaint against these channels or they had violated the code of conduct".

"By not giving them the right of hearing and unilaterally taking them off-air was against all norms of justice and threatened freedom of expression," the statement had added.

Earlier on Sunday, the media regulatory body had issued notices to 21 TV channels for the "unedited live telecast" of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz's press conference in Lahore on Saturday.

The regulatory authority had said that the unedited live telecast of Maryam's speech "against [the] judiciary and state institutions" was in violation of Pemra's laws, code of conduct and the Supreme Court's orders.



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