Press freedom


A joint meeting of the APNS, the CPNE, the PBA and all three factions of the PFUJ have opposed the proposals for special tribunals to deal with press matters, a proposal which the federal government has been following for some time with some persistence. The proposal, which is neither specific enough for detailed comment, nor which was part of the ruling PTI’s manifesto when it was elected to office last year, has not been favoured by any of the stakeholders of the media industry from the time it was made.
It seems therefore, that the government has made a proposal which nobody wants, except, it seems, some elements of the information bureaucracy. It is thus an obvious conclusion that the purpose is not, as claimed, the better regulation of news organisations, but to control them better. This is because so far, the media management policy has included such tactics as the sudden prohibition on the distribution of certain newspapers with certain neighbourhoods, or the sudden refusal of cable operators on carrying certain channels. In the Ayub era, until now a benchmark for press repression, at least it was known which publication had action taken against it and by which authority. Now, it seems, the authority is not to be disclosed.
The present government has put off the press tribunal proposal, until such time as it finds the ability to carry out the necessary legislation, which it lacks because of the opposition majority in the Senate. However, till then, it may try to implement it by promulgating an ordinance, which has been its favoured means of legislation so far. It should not do this, because it will find that because the press unity that it has met with so far, will only be enhanced. There may have been media elements which had been impressed by PTI chief Imran Khan while he was in opposition, but now that he has been elected to office, will hold him to those same standards of press freedom as he himself had promised. The government must abandon all means of control and crushing dissent, along with a categorical promise not to revive the tribunals proposal