Pakistan Coalition Pledges to Restore Media Freedoms

 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes statements made by leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that freedom of the media would be supported by the proposed new coalition government in Pakistan.

According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, PML-N chief Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari issued statements indicating that they would lift the ban on six anchors from three major television channels and honour their commitments to revoke two anti-media ordinances promulgated under emergency rule in November 2007.

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in urging the future government to abolish all “black laws” against the media as a demonstration of its full respect and support for press freedom.

Once implemented, these changes will allow journalists working in Pakistan to proceed in their professional pursuits unhindered by heavy and often arbitrary rules and demands imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

“We have been struggling against the anti-media ordinances since November 3, and will not accept restrictions on media,” PFUJ General Secretary Mazhar Abbas said.

Journalists from television, radio and newspapers defied a last-minute attempt by PEMRA to stifle coverage of the national elections on February 18, when it issued a “media silence period” notification to prevent live interviews with political candidates. The journalists’ defiance was supported by the Pakistan Broadcasters’ Association (PBA), which refused to accept the notification and threatened to go on strike.

“Acts of solidarity between media owners and journalists at such a crucial time for the people of Pakistan show the kind of strength and commitment needed by the press freedom community to overcome the hurdles that PEMRA and the caretaker government have put in their way,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Now is the time for the new government of Pakistan, in whatever form it takes, to act in the public interest and abolish all restrictive laws against the media, including the excessive powers of PEMRA.”

The IFJ joins the PFUJ in reiterating that the new government must guarantee freedom of the media for Pakistan by abolishing the PEMRA “code of conduct” imposed on journalists and media institutions, revoke the two anti-media ordinances, and implement the Seventh Wage Award.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries