KARACHI: Journalists and politicians at a media convention have strongly condemned the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) and urged the government to uphold the principle of ‘freedom of the press’.

The participants in the convention also urged media owners to look into financial crisis afflicting journalists and media workers across the country.

At the ‘Multi-stakeholder convention on freedom of the press & resolution of media crisis’ organised by the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) in collaboration with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), participants highlighted that this was the most difficult phase for media workers in decades, with self-censorship hampering reporting.

On the occasion, MNA Shazia Marri strongly condemned the online ‘harassment and trolling’ faced by journalist Asma Shirazi and criticised a government minister’s role in it.

Need stressed for strong, free media for prosperous country

“We stand with you and our fight is the same. Four journalists, including Nasir Zaidi, were flogged during Zia’s black martial law era. Journalists played an important role in the struggle for democracy,” Ms Marri added.

“You know who the real journalists are. Some people have infiltrated your ranks,” Ms Marri said while adding that they would not tolerate the government ‘pressurising’ journalists.

She said that the Pakistan Peoples Party was against the proposed PDMA and if the media took any step, the party workers would be with them.

“We reject the black law that is being tried to impose restrictions on journalism,” she added.

She called out double standards of media barons and urged them to take care of their journalists and workers.

“You are doing fine when mehngai has gone up, but not the people who work for you,” she said while urging owners of media houses to set minimum wage of Rs25,000 as had been announced by the Sindh government.

She called for early resolution of the financial crisis in the media industry.

The KUJ and PFUJ leaders reiterated that freedom of the press is guaranteed in Pakistan. “If Pakistan is to be saved, freedom of expression must be protected. Political, social and labour organisations have to stand with journalists. The next phase of the movement will be announced on November 2,” the KUJ said in a statement.

During his speech at the convention, former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair acknowledged that mistakes were made in the past when it came to dealing with political opponents and the media.

He criticised the tactics of pressurising journalists.

“We reject the Pakistan Media Development Authority and are with the journalist community in this regard,” he added.

“Unless the media is strong, the judiciary will not be strong. We want an independent judiciary; we want an independent election commission,” said Shahi Syed of the Awami National Party (ANP), as he stressed the “need for self-accountability”.

Recalling the bloody past of the city when ethnic strife led to bloodshed on a daily basis, he said the present government was apathetic to Karachi’s plight. On the occasion, he said his party was fully supportive of the media movement.

PFUJ president and secretary general Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi, Apnec chairman Irfan Ali, former PFUJ secretary general Mazhar Abbas, Pakistan Herald Workers Union president Mohammad Kashif Siddiqui, APNS president Sarmad Ali and Piler’s Karamat Ali addressed the gathering. KUJ secretary general Fahim Siddiqui and Barabri Party chief Jawad Ahmed also addressed the event.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021

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