New Press Regulatory Body Potentially "Black Law" for Pakistani Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by reports that a new press regulatory body that may be established in Pakistan is a replication of an infamous "black law" dating back to the 1960s.

According to IFJ affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), a report appeared in a leading Urdu language daily newspaper stating the government was about to instate a new body called the Press and Publication Regulatory Authority (PAPRA).

"Such a body would threaten to undo the positive steps the PFUJ and other human rights and press freedom organisations have achieved for a free and independent media in Pakistan," the IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

"The IFJ is seriously alarmed by these reports, which have not been denied by the government," Warren said.

The PFUJ reported that the PAPRA was likely to be a mirror of the Press and Publication Ordinance, tagged a "black law", originating in the 1960s and repealed in 1985 thanks to the work of the PFUJ.

The reports come amid protests from media organisations that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has already been abused by the government to sanction private TV channels, the PFUJ reported.

According to the PFUJ, other "black laws" which inhibited press freedom include the Official Secrets Act, which has reportedly been used against several journalists in the last two years.

The IFJ supports the PFUJ's calls for all media bodies to pull together to resist the creation of PAPRA, which would threaten the ability of the press to report unbridled.

"In a nation which has already seen horrific cases of journalists' rights trampled, the IFJ gives its unqualified support to the PFUJ in this battle of critical importance to press freedom," Warren said.

"Such a move by the government would be another blow to press freedom in a year which has been the worst for journalists' rights in Pakistan's 59 year history," he said.

"The IFJ calls on the government of Pakistan to respond to the reports and come clean about its intentions, which are being closely watched by international observers."

"It is absolutely imperative that the government act hastily to stop the trail of journalists' deaths and the blatant denial of rights of the press in Pakistan."

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries