Opposition terms PMDA a ‘black law’

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Shehbaz Sharif says PML N will confront the bill at all forums; Bilawal vows to move courts if PMDA bill passed

Shujaat Hamza

ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Monday that his party had stood by journalists in the past and stood by them even today.

Speaking to the journalists holding a sit-in outside the Parliament House in protest against Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Bill, he said the proposed bill was a ‘black law’, and it was an assault on free media as well as independence of judiciary. “This is also an attack on democracy,” he commented.

He assured the protesting journalists that PPP would not only raise this issue in the parliament but would also express solidarity with them at their every protest site anywhere in the country.

“And if this bill turns into a law, PPP will move the courts against it,” Bilawal said, and added, “There is no place in the country where it is safer to be a journalist.” PPP chairman said the proposed bill was also aimed at financial massacre of journalists.

Political parties, student unions and members of civil society continued to express solidarity with protesting journalists outside Parliament House in Islamabad on Monday, joining them in raising their voice against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill.

PML-N President and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif also addressed the protesters. Shehbaz Sharif said the government was out to muzzle free press in Pakistan adding the PML N would do its best to confront this new law.

He added, the PML N leader Nawaz Sharif had asked him to attend the protest and express solidarity with the media fraternity. He said his party had always worked for the freedom of press in Pakistan and would continue to do so even in the coming days come what may.

The protest call was given by various journalist bodies, headed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. Meanwhile, the Parlia­mentary Reporters Association had also announced that reporters would boycott the presidential address in protest against the proposed media authority. 

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, PML-N Information Sec­retary Marriyum Aurangzeb and MNA Mohsin Dawar, among others, also visited the protest site on Sunday night to express solidarity with the journalists.

Several politicians, including Senator Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani of the PPP, visited the protest camp on Monday and addressed the protesters. Aurangzeb, along with PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, also visited the protest site on Monday. Addressing the protesters, Iqbal lambasted the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for “attacking and attempting to muzzle” the media.

Referring to the PMDA bill, he dubbed it a “conspiracy” and said if the bill was passed, “democracy will die in this country”. The PML-N leader vowed to resist the “fascist law”.

Expressing solidarity with journalists, he said, “You (journalists) have survived gunshots, kidnappings and economic murder as you were fired from your jobs, but you didn’t stop speaking the truth and I salute you for this.”

He recalled that journalists had also staged protests when the PML-N was in the government. “But we took it sportingly,” Iqbal said. Meanwhile, police remained deployed outside the Parliament House as a security measure.