ISLAMABAD, 18 September 2019: The federal government’s announcement of setting up special tribunals for taking up complaints against media without prior consultations with primary stakeholders smacks of mala fide intention to bring the already beleaguered journalism in Pakistan under increased pressure, two national press freedom and media rights advocacy organizations reacted jointly on 18 September 2019.
“We believe the move to erect a parallel judicial structure is unjustified as platforms are already available for taking up any complaint against violation of media ethics, and the proposal to establish media tribunals is the latest attempt to increase pressure on the media. There seems to be a camouflaged purpose behind the move that goes beyond the suggested of redressal of complaints,” Freedom Network (FN) and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), two Islamabad-based press freedom and media rights advocacy organizations said in a joint press statement.
The two organizations were reacting to an announcement by Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Information and Broadcasting, at a news briefing in Islamabad on 17 September 2019 and telecast live by mainstream TV channels and reported by mainstream print media.
“The prime minister has ordered that a bill envisaging formation of media tribunals be tabled in the current National Assembly for a healthy debate on the issue, Dr Awan told the news briefing. The government “will sit with the media organizations on the matter later,” she added.
Freedom Network and IRADA said: “It is extremely worrying to note why the government is in a haste to table the bill when by its own admission no single stakeholder was consulted. In democracy, first the primary stakeholders’ opinion and proposals are invited before taking any final decision. The government proposal speaks of a dictatorial mindset in which a decision is already made before consultative process is kicked off.”
Dr Awan did not explain why these tribunals were necessary and that currently operational platforms addressing such complaints would get redundant once the tribunals began working.
The idea of establishing media courts echoed in July this year invoking sharp criticism from Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) saying it is based on “hidden agenda” of the government.
“Media is already going through tough times due to policies of the government and through this decision, they are trying to put more restrictions and bans on media,” CPNS President Arif Nizami had said in a press statement.