KARACHI: A reputable international watchdog has criticised the government’s new draft media law and pointed out that if passed without changes it would lead to imposition of a tribunal capable of issuing arbitrary decisions with no possibility of appeal.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that along with its Pakistani partner, the Freedom Network, it is supporting the campaign that Pakistani journalists have launched against the proposed legislation.
The draconian proposed law was unveiled in June and would create a powerful new entity called the Pakistani Media Development Authority (PMDA).
The government should immediately “abandon the PMDA bill, which, as it stands, carries within it the seeds of a centralised censorship office typical of the worst authoritarian regimes,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“If adopted, it would re-establish martial law for the media, recalling the worst moments of military dictatorship that Pakistan has known. This bill’s provisions are utterly incompatible with a democratic system.”
By introducing a “single-window” system for handling all disputes about journalistic content, the PMDA would enable the government to curb the freedom to provide news and information online, as it has already succeeded in doing so to a considerable extent with the traditional media, said the RSF statement.
According to the statement, every source of news and information, whether a national TV network or a blogger’s social media page or video channel, would be required by the PMDA bill to obtain a licence to publish or broadcast. This licence, valid for five or 15 years, would be subject to annual revision. In practice, this would enable the PMDA’s members to silence any outlet or individual not to their liking by rescinding their licence.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021