The proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) is being widely considered a draconian measure to tighten the federal government’s control over the media from one platform. Initially, opposition to the proposed measure had come from media organizations but now other important sections of society have also begun to realize that if PMDA was allowed to be made into a law it would weaponise the PTI govt’s authoritarian streak, deprive media of freedom and throttle the media industry. On Thursday at the All Pakistan Lawyers Convention, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), passed unanimous resolutions rejecting the PMDA for being an attempt on the part of the government to place more curbs on media. The government needs to realise that with the passage of time more sections of society would raise the red flag over the formation of the media body. Another noticeable development is that instead of confining themselves to passing resolutions only the PMDA’s critics have now decided to embark on public protests.
On Sunday PFUJ took out a rally from Islamabad’s National Press Club that turned into a sit-in in front of the Parliament House. Journalist organisations from all the four provinces as well as from AJK and Gilgit- Baltistan were duly represented in the gathering. Both on Sunday and Monday, the sit-in was addressed by top leaders and parliamentarians of major opposition parties. It was suggested that the PTI government had realized that it would not be able to win the next elections without muzzling the media. On Monday strongly worded statements against PMDA and in support of the protest were issued by rights bodies and NGOs. While Bilawal Bhutto Zardari threatened to take the matter to the SC if the PMDA was imposed through bulldozing it through parliament. Mian Shahbaz Sharif called upon PML-N workers to join the protest. Staging protest before the Presidential address, parliamentarians belonging to the opposition left the House to join the sit-in outside.
As the elections draw near the demand for cancellation of laws framed to chain the media would become a major election issue. PTI can save face by reconsidering support for PMDA.