Pakistan journalists’ union announces countrywide protest against law curbing press freedom in Punjab

Islamabad [Pakistan], July 4 (ANI): The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has called for a countrywide protest on Monday against the adoption of the controversial Punjab Assembly Privilege Bill 2021, which envisages award of punishment to journalists over the publication of reports about the proceedings of the assembly and its committees.

The call was given by PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and secretary-general Nasir Zaidi through a statement in which they asked all union of journalists (UJs) to organise rallies and hoist black flags at press clubs to protest against the “brutal” piece of law, reported Dawn.

The union argued that the bill would undermine the freedom of the press by awarding three-month imprisonment or a fine of Rs 10,000, or both, for publishing any report on the proceedings or a report of a committee before it was reported to the assembly.

The PFUJ has condemned what it called the insulting treatment received by journalists in Quetta by the police and the “fascist tactics” employed by the Balochistan provincial government to prevent the media from covering a press conference of opposition leaders in the city, Dawn reported.

Zulfiqar and Zaidi said that “sledgehammer tactics” against the journalists would not be tolerated at any cost and called upon the Balochistan government to take steps against the “undemocratic action”.

Various journalist groups and unions from Pakistan have announced a rally outside the Governor House in the Punjab province on Friday to protest against the controversial bill, calling it ‘anti-democratic’.

The bill has the support of all the government and opposition parties – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Freedom of the press has long been a problem in Pakistan but the situation has deteriorated markedly under Imran Khan, who has dismissed allegations of attacks on the Pakistani press as a “joke”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has ranked Pakistan the fifth most dangerous place for the practice of journalism, with 138 media persons there having lost their lives in the line of duty between 1990 and 2020. (ANI)