ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, called on Speaker Asad Qaiser to form a parliamentary committee to probe the atrocities being committed against media institutions in Pakistan.
The PML-N president penned a letter to Qaiser on Tuesday, highlighting the blatant violation of the law, Constitution and democracy in Pakistan due to which journalists in the country were being targeted.
Referring to the increasing curbs on freedom of speech and censorship in the country, Shehbaz wrote that this is “an urgent and important matter” and was related to the ‘unusual restrictions’ imposed on the media.
The former Punjab chief minister stated that the latest problem pertained to the ban on Channel 24, which he added had adversely affected the households of thousands of families. He stated that in the current government’s tenure, the media has been put in a very tough situation, similar to other industries.
“To add pressure on the media, a strategy has been formulated to ban the publication of columnists,” said Shehbaz. He accused the government of having journalists it did not like, sacked from their jobs.
He added that the lawyers’ community, Pakistan Bar Council’s Executive Committee and other foreign journalist organisations have labelled the government’s policy as “vengeful”.
“The issue is not the ban on Channel 24 but the government’s intolerance for media freedom [in general],” Shahbaz told the NA speaker. He added that the government has reached a point of extremism, alleging that it was using its authority to silence every voice that does not believe in the ‘government’s truth’.
“The Constitution of Pakistan recognises freedom of expression, access to information as a fundamental right,” Shehbaz told Speaker Qaiser. Highlighting the importance of freedom of expression, he stressed that media was the fourth pillar in democracy
Referring to yesterdays incident where police officers baton-charged Channel 24’s protesting workers, the PML-N leader added that the acts baton-charging, firing and pelting of stones is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The PML-N president wrote that he is demanding, as a representative of the opposition, that the ban on Channel 24 be lifted immediately.
The opposition leader asked the speaker to form a parliamentary committee to resolve issues related to the rule of law. He added that the committee should investigate the injustices being done to the media industry.
The PML-N president recommended the parliamentary committee listen to the complaints of media representatives and journalist organisations and provide their suggestions on the matter.
“I hope that you take a decision keeping democracy in mind and the state’s fourth pillar, [and act] above your party affiliation and pressure from the prime minister,” the former Punjab chief minister wrote in the letter. “The people’s voice should be heard, not silenced.”
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has suspended the transmission of channel 24 News HD.
According to the channel’s website, its license was cancelled as the PEMRA objected to the category of the license. 24 News has alleged that the authority did not even pay heed to its ‘principal stance’, calling the move illegal.