LAHORE: The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has decided to hold a long march from Quetta to Islamabad in early November against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PDMA) bill.
The decision was taken at PFUJ’s three-day federal executive council meeting at the Lahore Press Club with president Shahzada Zulfiqar in chair on Thursday. It was meeting’s second day.
In a statement after the meeting, the PFUJ president and secretary general said the media workers across the country were passing through a very critical phase due to lay-offs and pay cuts.
PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said the union was compelled to launch a countrywide protest and added that the union’s 13 units would hold conventions in their respective jurisdiction that would also be attended by the union leadership. He said a national convention would be held in Islamabad in the last week of October.
In an earlier news release on Thursday, the PFUJ dispelled the impression that the stakeholders were ready to hold talks over the controversial bill.
“The journalists fraternity considers the bill a draconian piece of legislation and rejects it in its entirety.”
It said the government was trying to give an impression through press releases and statements that the stakeholders were ready to discuss the issue but the PFUJ wanted to make it clear that there could not be any talk over the PMDA bill or even formation of another umbrella body or authority under any other name.
“The entire action committee, including PFUJ representative, had made it very clear to the information minister that we will not accept any umbrella body like the PDMA and we will only sit with the government to strengthen the existing laws,” Mr Zaidi said.
Mr Zaidi said the PFUJ representatives had earlier told the Senate standing committee in the presence of PBA, CPNE, APNS, AMEND and other stakeholders that even if other stakeholders agreed to government’s bill, the PFUJ would fight it alone.
“We are ready for reforms in the Newspapers Employees Condition of Service Act (NECOSA) 1973, formation of further establishment of ITNE benches in provincial capitals, wage award for electronic media employees,” he said.
The PFUJ president and secretary-general accused the government of holding talks with fake journalists’ bodies. “The government wants us to share platforms with them. We want to make it very clear that we will not share any platform with such journalists’ unions,” the PFUJ secretary-general said.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Thursday by the joint action committee set up against PMDA, the committee thanked media watchdogs, lawyers associations, human rights associations, political parties, civil society for standing up for freedom of expression.
On Wednesday, in a meeting between APNS, CPNE, PFUJ, PBA, AEMEND and the federal information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Minister of State Farrukh Habib, the JAC expressed its reservations on the PMDA and termed it unacceptable. However, it was agreed to form a committee to address the issue of fake news, particularly on social media, the rights of media workers and ways to further improve laws and regulatory framework.
The statement said that member organisations of the joint action committee would nominate their representatives to the committee being formed to discuss these issues with the representatives of the federal government.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021