Pak politicians, rights groups reject idea of 'media courts'

International | Written by : IANS| Updated: Thu, Sep 19, 2019, 01:07 PM

Pak politicians, rights groups reject idea of 'media courts'

Islamabad, Sep 19 (IANS) Pakistani politicians, media bodies and rights groups have rejected the governments announcement of setting up of special tribunals for taking up complaints against the media without prior consultation with primary stakeholders.

The announcement was made by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan at a news briefing on Tuesday, Dawn news reported on Thursday.

"The prime minister has ordered that a bill envisaging formation of media tribunals be tabled in the current National Assembly session," Awan said, adding that the government "will sit with the media organisations on the matter later".

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a statement on Wednesday, saw the move as an attempt to launch a "witch-hunt against media" as well after "holding opposition leaders hostage" through the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He made it clear that the PPP would not let this Bill pass at any cost. "We stand for freedom of media. Pakistan's media is going through its worst phase of censorship... We will not allow them to target the media so blatantly and brazenly. Enough is enough."

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was "deeply concerned" over the government's anno­uncement to set up media tribunals.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said any restriction on the media was an attack on democracy and in violation of Articles 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution, which dealt with freedom of expression and access to information.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said her party rejected the proposal as it was an un-parliamentary move.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned the idea and termed it as another tool of arm-twisting of media and journalists, who are already under heavy censorship and financial crunch and are victims of retrenchments in the name of so-called financial burden on rich owners.

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) also voiced concern over the decision.

CPNE president Arif Nizami has called for a meeting in Karachi on Thursday to devise a line of action against the attempts to curb media freedom.