Lahore, September 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed strong reservations over a proposed draft that is apparently aimed at gagging the print media and said that civil society will vigorously resist any such attempt.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission stated: “HRCP is greatly alarmed by the circulation of a draft of the proposed Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority (PPMRA) Ordinance 2017. The draft seeks to impose restrictions and penalties, which include the mandatory annual renewal of publishing licences, as well as empowering authorities to arbitrarily cancel a newspaper’s declaration.
“The draft, which was to be taken up by the print media regulator, Press Council of Pakistan (PCP), today (Monday), has shocked civil society and advocates of freedom of expression not just because of its contents but also the manner in which it made its appearance and by a complete lack of engaging with the stakeholders.
“The federal information minister has said that she had nothing to do with the proposed draft and the parliamentarians have also been kept in the dark. It is imperative to understand where this draft emanated from all of a sudden and at whose behest.
“Media freedoms and the freedom of expression in general are vital issues for which countless journalists and others in the vanguard of civil society have rendered immense sacrifices. That alone would justify the need for any discussion on the subject to include all the stakeholders.
“We hope that the inquiry that the information minister has vowed to order in this respect will be conducted swiftly and the findings made public without delay.
“HRCP strongly denounces all attempts to curb the freedom of expression and stresses that any such steps will arouse an immediate outrage of conscious citizens. HRCP stands with the journalists and all citizens in the ongoing struggle to defend, preserve and expand these fundamental freedoms, which are the basis of any democratic society.”