Leaders of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) met Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in his chamber on Tuesday.
The media delegation comprised Mian Amir Mahmood, Chairman, Shakeel Masud, Chaudhry Abdul Rehman and Mohsin Naqvi of the PBA; CPNE’s Kazim Khan, Ejazul Haq, Irshad Arif, Yousuf Nizami; APNS President Sarmad Ali, Nazafreen Saigol, Omar Shami, Shahab Zubair; and Muhammad Usman, Ayaz Khan and Mian Tahir of the AEMEND.
On the occasion, Elahi fully supported the demands of the media’s Joint Action Committee (JAC) and called for immediate repealing of the amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).
“PECA ordinance discriminates against journalist community and the people of Pakistan,” Elahi said. “Media is the fourth pillar of the state, we believe in its independence.” He stressed that freedom of media was very important for the development of Pakistan.
“It is not in our interest to impose any restrictions on the freedom of media. We have always worked for the freedom of media and the welfare of its workers. Independent media is essential for the security and survival of Pakistan,” the speaker said.
Elahi said that a record number of electronic media licences were issued during the tenure of the PML-Q. “During our tenure, we openly accepted media criticism. We always took the element of reform from it.” Punjab Assembly Muhammad Khan Bhatti was also present on the occasion.
Meeting with JI chief
The JAC delegation also met Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq at Mansoorah, and apprised him of its concerns about PECA. During the meeting, Siraj assured the JAC that the JI stood by them in the struggle against all laws that restrict the freedom of media, especially the recent black law, which was enacted through a presidential ordinance last week.
He strongly condemned the government tactics of restricting freedom of expression and silencing the media. “Restrictions on free media are not acceptable. We reject the PECA Amendment Ordinance,” the JI chief said.
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JI Secretary General Amirul Azeem, Information Secretary Qaiser Sharif and Deputy General Secretary Muhammad Asghar were also present. Siraj said that the government had recently enacted the PECA Ordinance, under which, anyone who shared fake news on digital media could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to Rs1 million.
“This crime has been made a non-bailable [offence] to some extent. The Jamaat-e-Islami strongly supports the protests of the journalists and the human rights organisations in this regard,” he said. He welcomed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruling that restrained the government from making arrests under Section 20 of the law.
He said that the most important issue was that the law did not define fake news. “Who decides which news is fake? The implementation of the ordinance without the definition and interpretation of fake news is beyond comprehension,” he continued. The PECA law would make anyone punishable even before conviction, he added.
The JI chief said that thousands of journalists were rendered unemployed during the tenure of the present government. “Many important institutions were closed down in the last three years due to restrictions on journalism,” he added.
Besides, Pakistan was the ninth country in the world where journalists were killed and harassed the most,” he added. In the last two decades, he continued, nearly 150 journalists had gone missing and were killed in the country.
Siraj stressed the need for promoting unity among the journalist organisations, emphasising that due to differences, the government’s hands were getting stronger and they were trying to restrict the freedom of media. “This has been happening for the last 73 years,” he said.
“We want the journalist organisations to introduce their own code of conduct. We are not in favour of setting up government’s regulating committees for electronic, print and digital media. He added that the real conspiracy of the government against the media must be exposed to the public so that the facts could be brought to the notice of the nation.
On the occasion, the delegation apprised Siraj of the concerns of the media regarding PECA. The delegation said that the journalists were united against the new law and they would continue their fight for the freedom of media. They thanked Siraj and other JI leaders for their support.