Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday, in a letter, drew Speaker Asad Qaiser's attention of the blatant violation of the law, Constitution and democracy in the country, and asked him to formulate a parliamentary committee to investigate the injustices being faced by the media.
“This is an urgent and important matter,” Shehbaz told Speaker Qaiser. He added that the matter was related to the “unusual restrictions” imposed on the media and the employment of media workers.
The former Punjab chief minister stated that the latest problem pertained to the ban on Channel 24, which he added had affected the households of thousands of families. He stated that in the current government’s tenure, media has been in a very tough situation similar to other industries.
“To add pressure on the media, a policy has been adopted to ban the publication of columnists,” said Shehbaz. He added that the government has adopted a policy of ensuring that journalists it dislikes are unemployed.
Sharif told the custodian of the house that lawsuits have been filed against the owners of media institutions who did not stop from criticising the government, adding that the biggest example of this was Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman.
He added that the lawyers’ community, Pakistan Bar Council’s Executive Committee and other foreign journalist organisation have labelled the government’s policy as “vengeful”.
“The issue is not the closure of Channel 24 but the government's intolerance for media freedom,” Shahbaz told the NA speaker. He added that the government has reached the level 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. He added that the media was the fourth pillar in democracy and for the rule of Constitution.
“Freedom of expression, government pressure, closure of channels are undemocratic, unconstitutional tactics,” said Shehbaz, while condemning the acts. He added that the acts of baton charging, firing and pelting of stones is also undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The PML-N presidnet, in a letter to Speaker Asad Qaiser, stated that as the representative of the opposition, he is demanded that the ban on Channel 24 should be lifted immediately.
Sharif also demanded that the Jang Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should also be released immediately.
The opposition leader asked the speaker to form a parliamentary committee to resolve issues related to rule of law. He added that the committee should investigate the injustices being done to the media industry.
He recommended the parliamentary committee listen to the complaints of media representatives and journalist organisations and give advice on the matter.
“I hope that you make a decision in view of democracy’ and state’s fourth pillar above party affiliation and pressure from the prime minister,” said Shehbaz in the letter. He added that the people’s voice should be heard, not shut down.
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 license. 24 News has alleged that the authority did not even pay heed to its ‘principal stance’, calling the move illegal.
Meanwhile, Jang Geo Media Group's Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been in NAB's custody over a private property case for more than a 100 days.
Both the moves have been condemned by the oppostion, government allies and lawyers' body.