Pakistan Journalists Syndicate announces nationwide protest against law restricting press freedom in Punjab

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Monday called for a nationwide protest against the passage of the controversial Punjab Assembly Privilege Bill 2021, which provides for the imposition of sanctions on journalists for the publication of reports on the work of the assembly and its committees.

The call was made by PFUJ Chairman Shahzada Zulfiqar and General Secretary Nasir Zaidi through a statement in which they called on all Unions of Journalists (UJs) to hold rallies and raise flags blacks in press clubs to protest against the “brutal” law. Dawn reported.

The union argued that the bill would undermine freedom of the press by imposing three months’ imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 rupees, or both, for the publication of any report on the proceedings or report of a committee before it is reported to the assembly.

The PFUJ condemned what it called insulting treatment meted out to journalists in Quetta by the police and the “fascist tactics” employed by the Balochistan provincial government to prevent the media from covering a press conference by opposition leaders in the city, Dawn reported.

Zulfiqar and Zaidi said “hammer tactics” against journalists would not be tolerated at any cost and called on the government of Balochistan to take action against “undemocratic action”.

Various Pakistani groups and unions on Friday announced a rally outside the governor’s house in Punjab province to protest against the controversial bill, which they call “undemocratic”.

The bill has the support of all government and opposition parties – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N ).

Press freedom has long been a problem in Pakistan, but the situation has deteriorated markedly under Imran Khan, who has dismissed allegations of attacks on the Pakistani press as a “joke”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has ranked Pakistan the fifth most dangerous place to practice journalism, with 138 journalists having lost their lives in the line of duty between 1990 and 2020.

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