Pakistan: Proposed media regulatory authority rejected by Pakistani media

A coalition of Pakistani media stakeholders and leaders is calling for the rejection of the proposed Pakistan Media Regularity Authority (PMDA) which it says will stop the flow of information in the country and restrict free, independent and responsible media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Pakistan affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) call on Pakistan’s lawmakers to immediately withdraw the proposal for a new body.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is a part of the National Assembly, speaks at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Credit: Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

The coalition, which includes the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), said it strongly opposes the proposed government move to create the new body. It instigated a coordinated response after a meeting in Karachi on August 11 and issued a joint statement utterly rejecting the proposed PMDA.

The proposed PMDA “would go against the democratic norms that Pakistan should uphold as a democracy”, the coalition said in its statement. It also cautions the danger of installing a new authority which would have power to shut down any media entity without prior notice, without the capacity to be challenged in a court of law.

The media stakeholders said the proposal was clearly aimed at tightening Pakistan’s central government’s control over the media through a single platform, while ignoring the reality that print, electronic and social media are separate entities, each with own defined features.

According to the IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020-2021, Pakistan suffered under the harshest clampdown on dissent by any government during 2020 and 2021. The report found that media rights and freedom of expression took a severe beating, with the government leaping at the opportunity of the Covid-19 pandemic to deprive the media of both freedom and funds, driving an already beleaguered media industry into a deeper crisis.

The secretary of PFUJ, Rana Azeem, said: “The government is committed to control the media through this centralized control body which is meant to clamp down the vibrant media of Pakistan and bring it under the state control.”

The IFJ said: “The creation of such a media control mechanism in Pakistan would be anathema to the Constitution of Pakistan and the media freedoms it enshrines. These freedoms have been hard fought and defended by journalists and their unions for many decades. The IFJ urges Pakistan’s government to take heed of the media industry’s concerns and drop the PMDA proposal immediately.”

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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