Journalists reject changes to ‘controversial’ Punjab bill

Published July 6, 2021
Members of Sukkur Union of Journalists (SUJ) are holding protest demonstration against Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Act 2021, at Sukkur press club on Monday. — Shahid Ali/PPI
Members of Sukkur Union of Journalists (SUJ) are holding protest demonstration against Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Act 2021, at Sukkur press club on Monday. — Shahid Ali/PPI

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Lahore-based Joint Action Committee (JAC) have rejected the amended Punjab Assembly Privileges Bill 2021 terming it an eyewash aimed at cooling down the tempers of the journalists’ community.

“The PFUJ and Action Committee rejects the amended bill as notified by the speaker of the Punjab Assembly on Monday through a press release and demand that Section 21 of the controversial bill be totally abolished,” PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfikar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said in a joint press statement issued in Islamabad on Monday.

The law, adopted unanimously by all the political parties including PTI, PML-Q PPP, and PML-N, allows house’s handpicked “judicial committee” to penalise in a summary trial any journalist or bureaucrat for breach of a privilege of the house or any of its committee or a member. Meanwhile, countrywide rallies were held across the country at the call of PFUJ where journalists unions demanded withdrawal of the law.

The biggest rally was held in Lahore outside the Punjab Assembly where participants chanted slogans against the bill which is still to be assented by the governor.

The Joint Action Committee of the Lahore Press Club in its meeting on Monday reviewed the notification issued on the direction of Speaker Parvez Elahi earlier in the day. It observed that clause 21 of the controversial law gives unlimited powers to the speaker to amend the schedule that prescribes penalties for violation of the law and any notification in the presence of this clause will only be a deception.

The committee demanded that all the anti-journalists clauses and provisos from the law must be removed through a proper amendment bill.

Though all parliamentary parties had led their support in the passage of the ‘controversial’ law, only the PML-N sent its representative to join the protest out PA building.

Azma Bukhari, PML-N Punjab spokesperson, said her party condemns the enactment and demands that the controversial clauses should be removed through a proper amendment bill.

Meanwhile, rallies were held in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad and Sukkur. Black flags were hoisted on all the press clubs as a mark of protest against the bill.

President PFUJ Shehzada Zulfiqar in his speech in Quetta warned members of the provincial assemblies to stay away from adoption of such “anti-people, anti-media and anti-journalist laws.

Secretary General Nasir Zaidi in a speech at protest rally in front of National Press Club, Islamabad, said such laws are always rejected by PFUJ and “we will always resist such laws which are invented by political elite to suppress media.”

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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