Media restrictions

Journalists Beyond Borders (BRF) in its annual report ((2021) has decried and denigrated the government for its constant willingness to tighten the screws around Pakistani media with no sign of expiring to review policy which is indeed tyrannical and unacceptable for disagreeing with constitutional imperatives.

The report ranked Pakistan 145th in the global press freedom rankings, indicating a decline from the previous year, confirming that the government has been on the path to gagging the media in uniformity, although that slowly but surely. The report is indeed a damning indictment of the government’s policy of denying basic rights to the citizens of Pakistan – freedom of speech and expression. The report cites a growing number of horrific harassment and intimidation of journalists, including their murder during the year. The report speaks volumes about the cruel practices of the authorities such as brazen censorship, disruption in newspaper distribution, jamming of television channels, punitive distribution of government and even private advertisements, forcing news houses to shut down. amend or face financial ruin for them. Yet the official free media claim can illustrate in its bare form as a blatant lie.

Pakistan deserves a better image on the international stage but is unfortunately known for the wrong reasons, especially in the incongruous policies of the current government which are foreign to a democracy.

Parliament instead of being the forum for debate, control and legislation has been reduced to the status of a wrestling pit, the discriminatory nature of the accountability process mired in the opposition witch hunt is indeed questionable. , the collapse of the economy pushing 7.5 million people below the poverty line is appalling, the abysmal governance rooted in incompetence hampering service delivery is boring, human rights violations by State institutions, caring less about the country’s image as a guarantee, is worrying, increase in corruption according to the International The latest transparency report is regrettable, the increase in incidents of persecution of religious minorities is heartbreaking , the agony of the FATF gray list looms more than the government considers its success ironic. Unfortunately, Pakistan is discussed today as one of the countries among Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria; these are at the bottom of socio-economic indicators, and freedom of speech is rare.

The countries where freedom of speech and speech is a hallmark are also the countries which are almost free from corruption – Denmark, Norway, Sweden – because the free media aggressively promotes the cause of transparency and accountability which strikes at the heart of the culture of impunity – the root cause of the vicious cycle of disease.

Here we only intend to discuss the freedom of the press which is guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan as a basic right of citizens enshrined in article 19 of the constitution. The government’s delinquency in this regard may not be blatant, although it has been repeatedly highlighted by local media and by credible international organizations such as Amnesty International, human rights organizations. , the International Federation of Journalists and most recently by the Journalists Across Boarders. How unfortunate that the government, instead of being seen in the quest to improve the country’s image, rejects such conclusions as part of an international program to slander the country.

Complacency, flooded with conspiracy theories, is a dangerous trend as it is doomed to end in a darkness syndrome pushing the country further into the abyss.

The use of third-degree tactics against the media, perpetrated by state actors to silence the voice of dissent, is reprehensible. But official spokespersons reiterated denials that indeed denigrated their sense of proportion and fairness which seems to have reached the depths of a lie. The government’s denials of restrictions on the media carry no weight as they are so well known and documented in the findings of national and international organizations after reaching finality status.

So much so that the European Union, in its recent resolution, made special mention of the shrinking media space in Pakistan which can be both an obstacle and even a consequence.

The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament threatened to revise the GPS + facility granted to Pakistan with preferential treatment for Pakistan’s exports to EU markets. The facility has enabled Pakistani exporters to gain a significant competitive advantage over other countries in terms of tariff preferences. The EU is a large market for Pakistani textile products in particular, therefore a large source of foreign exchange earnings for the country which often faces a deficit in its external account. Pakistan’s goodwill in the EU is already on the wane also due to growing religious intolerance in the country which has greatly upset France, a very important member of the European Union.

The government could actively engage with EU countries to rally after taking tangible steps to dispel the impression of suffocation from the media struggling to survive in a very difficult environment. For starters, the Media Freedom and Journalist Protection Bill can be proactively followed instead of sending it to the Justice Department, which raises doubts about the government’s intention. The proposed ordinance, the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority ordinance, can also be disallowed, the sooner the better.

The rapid and strong reaction of civil society in general and representative organizations of journalists in particular to the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority should have given officials a fair idea of ​​the people’s commitment to freedom. medias. The PFUJ, the representative body of journalists, the Pakistan Bar Council and the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, categorically rejected the government’s decision and expressed its firm resolve not to accept “martial law of the media” and to launch a national movement against the ordinance.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of leading editors, media directors and journalists from around the world working for media freedom in more than 100 countries, has expressed deep concern at subject of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance. The world is also very alarmed at the trivial tactics used by the government to uniformly gag the media.

Threats from state actors have continued to be reported to journalists, editors are forced to highlight news in particular or ignore news or give it a particular slant thereby forcing censorship, news houses are threatened with financial ruin by the government’s weapon advertisements, the lifeline of the media, and yet government spokespersons claim that the free press in the country is a reflection of the stubborn mindset.

Stifling the media seems to be part of the “hybrid system” philosophy to move from a parliamentary democracy to a quasi-democracy or just a doctorate rule. The ruling elite apparently consider that the dream of ruling the country for decades may not come true under the constitution which demands a new term after five years. Unfortunately, the campaign against the media and the constitutional institutions – the Judicial and Electoral Commission of Pakistan – may be part of the same political philosophy fabricated to pave the way for the government of the country regardless of the imperatives of legitimacy. This can be dangerous due to the real possibility of a conflict of institutions opening a Pandora’s box of political issues that were settled under the 18th Amendment under the PPP government. The ruling elite cannot reside in the forbidden domain of the federation which may prove to be the shortest route to suicide. The need of the hour is to inject more federalism and more democracy because the country cannot afford miscalculations resulting in prohibitive costs for the federation and for democracy.

The PPP will not allow the fascist tentacles to suffocate Pakistani democracy and the country’s constitutional regime because parliamentary democracy is one of the articles of faith of the party ideology which is too sacred and cherished a legacy. The party has always carried the flag of democracy high throughout its history, although it has had to pay the ultimate price for its great leaders and workers in its struggle during the fierce dictatorships of successive military regimes. The democratic movements against the military dictators General Ziaul Haq and General Musharraf, led by the PPP at the time, are indeed quite recent in the history of government and politics in Pakistan.

Today’s democracy in the country is indeed the recurring dividends of the sacrifices of PPP leaders and workers in past history. The fight is still going on. The outgoing PPP leadership can certainly live up to its reputation for defending authoritarian and anti-popular forces that seem to come together once again to inflict a death blow on the country’s constitutional rule. The PPP leadership is undoubtedly determined to thwart its designs this time also against the federation and the 1973 constitution.

History is a witness that PPP has always defended media freedom, and indeed actively participated in the press freedom movements launched during military rule in the country. The PPP is fully committed to standing alongside the journalistic community in the fight against media restrictions. President Bilawal Bhutto has expressed his party’s total solidarity with journalists who have fallen victim to state actors in the recent past, saying loud and clear that the party will not allow the media to be crushed no matter what.

Journal: The News

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