Denouncing the law placing fetters on the fundamental rights of citizens, representatives of media and journalist organizations in Pakistan on Monday, walked out of a meeting with the officials of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, reported local media.
Vehemently opposing the Imran Khan government’s blatant attempt to curb freedom of expression through a Presidential ordinance, the representatives decided not to hold any further meeting with the ministry until the withdrawal of the new law, reported the Dawn newspaper.
Following the walkout of the media’s Joint Action Committee (JAC), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed their solidarity with the media “for freedom of expression.”Notably, Imran Khan government’s efforts to regulate social media through amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) received flak from the opposition parties as well as various media and journalists’ bodies in Pakistan for trying to stifle the defiant voices in the country.
Expressing their objection to the amendments, the two major opposition parties of Pakistan- the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)- described the presidential ordinance as ‘unconstitutional’, reported the Pakistani newspaper.
The JAC, in a statement, termed the meeting with the government a “farce” and declared all discussions suspended until the ‘draconian amendments’ to PECA were revoked.
“The information minister is toying with the media fraternity in the guise of engagement and keeps passing ordinances against freedom of speech while giving the impression that media fraternity is being engaged,” the publication reported citing JAC’s statement.
“There is a grave trail of examples where the ministry of information is tampering with freedom of speech, muzzling the journalists’ right to report, financially crippling media to influence journalism,” the statement added.
Under the ordinance promulgating the amendments to PECA, the definition of a “person” has been broadened to include any company, association, institution, organization, authority, or any other. Furthermore, anyone found guilty of attacking a person’s “identity” will now be sentenced to five years instead of three years.
Another amendment to the country’s election laws allows any person holding any office under the constitution or any other law, to visit or address public meetings in “any area or constituency”.