IFJ Alarmed at Tightening Government Grip over Broadcast Media in Pakistan

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned about the proposed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Amendment Bill (2004) that could seriously threaten freedom of the press.

"The proposed amendments to broadcasting laws tabled in the National Assembly, are a serious encroachment on the freedom of expression and the citizen's right to information," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

The Bill has been tabled at a time when the government is already facing harsh criticism over violence against journalists in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi since mid-April, and most recently on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

The IFJ has urged the Government of Pakistan not to pass the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Amendment Bill, 2004 (PEMRA) without discussions with media organisations in the country, in particular the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the apex body of journalists in the country.

"It is a matter of immense concern that the Bill has already been passed by the Standing Committee without much debate," said Warren.

In a gross violation of fundamental rights, the proposed amendments empower police to arrest without warrant any radio or TV broadcaster, accusing him/her of "repeat violation" under the PEMRA Ordinance.

Further, the licensees/broadcasters' right to a hearing has also been withdrawn. Moreover, the amendments do not distinguish between professional broadcasters and cable distributors.

The intention to tighten control over the burgeoning electronic media is evident from the increased government representation on the PEMRA. The portents of this trend were evident in the recent government ban on the broadcast of BBC news on FM-103.

"A free press is the hallmark of a working democracy, and all attempts to muzzle the media must be strongly resisted," said Warren.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries

For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668