Newly-appointed Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday announced disbanding the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), saying no “black law” that restricted people’s constitutional right to freedom of expression would be “enacted or worked upon”.
“I’m announcing today that the PMDA, in whatever shape or form it was working until now, is now being disbanded,” Aurangzeb announced while addressing a presser shortly after taking oath as the information minister.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, on eve of the talk, had expressed solidarity with journalists.
The minister added that her party remained involved with the media during the past four years in its struggle against censorship.
She said that many media workers were sacked from their jobs and were targeted for fulfilling their duties, and expressed solidarity with all of them.
The info minister went on to say that a society, where freedom of expression prevails, strengthens the state. “The media enables accountability of governments, thus enhancing the latter’s performance.”
She also announced that a joint committee comprising all stakeholders, including media organisations, will meet to discuss the issues being faced by the media.
She added that a “consultative solution” acceptable to all will be adopted as a result.
Aurangzeb further said that no regulatory authority other than the already functioning Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) would be established.
The information minister recalled how the previous PTI regime had attempted to introduce a ‘black law’ known as the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022.
According to her, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar will be reviewing the Peca law of 2016, including all stakeholders in the consultation.
She lamented that the ordinance was earlier used to file a first information report (FIR) against a journalist and torture him during a raid at his house.
On the bill pertaining to the protection of journalists, the newly-appointed information minister said it would be implemented soon.
She added that the government is ready to accept criticism fully “if it improved the lives of Pakistanis and the governance.”
Beginning of an era
The federal information minister observed that the people of Pakistan witnessed abuses aimed at the opposition, the media, or parliament during the tenure of the previous government.
Due to this, there was a decline in discourse and the listening to arguments from the other side.
“Legislation through ordinances closed the doors of parliament while the media remained oppressed,” she said and asked for the beginning of a new era and the end to the state of chaos.
“The incumbent government is the representative of all parties and together, we will end the chaos,” she added.
Aurangzeb ensured that the government won’t indulge in “bad accountability” against its rivals, saying “no innocent person would go behind bars”.
She, however, made it clear that the law will take its course against those who deprived Pakistanis of due necessities.