ON Monday, the government yet again displayed its rising contempt for the freedom of press — this time in parliament. When reporters arrived, by special invitation, to cover the joint session of parliament and President Arif Alvi’s speech to mark the new parliamentary year, they were shocked to find both the press lounge and gallery locked, apparently on the specific directives of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser. Later, in an attempt to justify his action, Mr Qaiser stated he could not afford to have “two groups” fighting in the House and admitted to a ‘misunderstanding’. He was referring to a call for a symbolic walkout given by the Parliamentary Reporters Association to register their protest against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority. However, Mr Qaiser also asserted that the decision to lock the gallery had been taken in consultation with the PRA, a claim the body has categorically denied. The speaker’s actions have been roundly condemned for undermining press freedom. It is hard to recall when in the country’s history the coverage of parliamentary proceedings has been out of bounds for the press, perhaps not even in the dark days of military dictatorship. In fact, a look of utter bewilderment on the president’s face was apparent when he saw an empty press gallery during his address. Journalists later protested outside the speaker’s chamber. Another protest by the media was being held outside parliament against the PMDA.

Such a contemptuous attitude towards the media is hardly worthy of a democratic government that the PTI claims to be. That journalists have resolved not to take this attack on their freedom to write and report lying down shows how keenly aware they are of their own years-long struggle to break free from censorship and of the fundamental rights the Constitution gives them. In these times of political tumult and polarisation in society, an independent media is all the more necessary. It is time to let the journalists do their job.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

Opinion

Crisis looming
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Crisis looming

It will be a terrible mistake for the PM, his acolytes to underestimate the strength of the wave that is about to hit them.
An eye-opener
21 Oct 2021

An eye-opener

A daring report by Indian savants could have been written here.
Past, present, forever
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Past, present, forever

Despite their close relationship, this is hardly the first time the PTI and the military have not been BFFs.

Editorial

Not just cricket
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Not just cricket

Hype surrounding the match — sold out as soon as tickets sales opened — has overshadowed the other games, as well as other teams.
Local governance
21 Oct 2021

Local governance

The court ruling restoring local institutions in Punjab should go a long way in ensuring the continuation of grassroots democracy.
21 Oct 2021

Breast cancer awareness

LIKE so many other issues relating to women’s health in Pakistan, breast cancer is not a subject of serious...
Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
Evading tax laws
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

Challenge of tax compliance can't be dealt with without directly taxing incomes irrespective of source and punishing tax evaders.
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...