HYDERABAD: The Pakis­tan Media Develop­ment Authority (PMDA) ordinance is a black law aimed at imposing a sort of “martial law” on the media, speakers at a seminar, organised by the Hyderabad Union of Journalists at the Press Club, concluded on Saturday.

They said the new law amounted to robbing journalists of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

The theme of the seminar was: “Legis­lation, regulation and media crisis: the way forward”.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (Afzal Butt group), said the ruling class had always tried to muzzle the media to cover up its wrongdoing.

He recalled that Imran Khan used to champion the cause of media freedom before coming to power, but now he had gone back on his words. “The elite wants the masses to give up thinking altogether.”

Mr Zulfiqar said if the government tried to gag social media, “we will oppose it as well”. The present government was no different from military rulers, alleging that journalists were even being “waylaid after airing views on TV channels”, the PFUJ chief observed.

PPP leader Nisar Khuhro said his party had rejected the formation of PMDA as it was a draconian measure. He described as black laws the ordinances promulgated after bypassing parliament. “Since Pakistan has been under martial law for long spells, the rulers have become accustomed to repressive laws,” the PPP leader observed.

He disapproved of curbs on the media, likening the measure to “collective murder”. He accused the PTI of turning the government machinery into an “ordinance factory”.

The PPP leader condemned the government for trying to bring the Election Commission to its knees, expressing fears that the move was a “sign of things to come”.

Shah Mohammad Shah, the Sindh PML-N’s president, said anti-media measures did not concern journalists alone but political forces as well.

He praised journalists for always standing up to “undemocratic forces” and called upon all political parties to stand by them in their struggle for freedom of expression.

Other speakers included Nasir Zaidi, the PFUJ secretary general, HUJ president Jai Parkash and general secretary Jani Khaskheli, Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party chairman Dr Qadir Magsi and Qaumi Awami Tehreek leader Ayaz Latif Palijo.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2021

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