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PFUJ hails government’s decision to abandon PMDA

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Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has hailed the Federal Government’s decision to abandon the establishment of Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), which was planned by the ousted PTI government.

The PFUJ also lauded the Federal Information Minister, Marriyum Aurangzeb’s announcement to start consultations with stakeholders to review the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 in order to ensure protection of freedom of expression online.

In a press statement, PFUJ’s President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi welcomed the announcements made by the Information Minister earlier this week.

The PFUJ leaders observed that there is a need to undertake a comprehensive review not only of the PECA law but also of all the laws relating to media and freedom of expression, including the Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1973, also known as NECOSA, and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, 2002.

They also pointed out that the federal government should immediately announce the appointment of a judge for Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper’s Employees (ITNE). They said the ITNE judge has not been appointed for the last three years because of which the newspapers employees cannot get their grievances redressed through court.

The PFUJ leaders noted that most of the media related laws predate the current media sector. NECOSA was enacted in 1973 and deals with the rights of workers in the print media only. Private / commercial broadcast sector emerged after 30 years of the enactment of the NECOSA. More than 70% of the total work force in the sector is associated with the broadcast media, which do not have the statutory protections available to those who are associated with the newspapers. Digital media is an even more recent phenomenon and is spreading exponentially. The new expanding media market requires statutory protection to all media workers, including those working in the media other than the newspapers. Therefore, there is a need to review the NECOSA to expand the scope of protection given in the law to broadcast and digital media platforms as well.

Similarly, PFUJ leaders stated, PEMRA law seems to have outlived its life due to convergence of technology and arrival of digital media platforms. Broadcast media in most parts of the world has become digital. However, Pakistan is still living with the analogue transmission of the content in the broadcast sector. Ever changing dynamics of broadcast and digital / online media platforms necessitate a modern regulatory framework to ensure free flow of information. The existing media regulatory framework in the country is restricted and has mostly proved as a censorship tool in the hands of the authorities. The situation necessitates a thorough review of existing regulatory framework relating to, both, broadcast media and digital media to bring the legal framework at par with the international best practices with the aim to maximize freedom of expression and access to information.

While appreciating the statement of the Minister, Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi stressed that the scope of the review of PECA law, must be expanded to review of all media related laws, including NECOSA and PEMRA and Journalists Protection Act. PFUJ also emphasizes that all stakeholders, including PFUJ, PBA, AEMEND, CPNE, APNS and civil society and human rights groups should be included in the review process.

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