Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
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In its bid to control the print media the PML(N) government has decided to introduce a legislation viz Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority (PPMRA) along similar lines as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) with little appreciation of the inherent difference in distribution of the two genres and at the same time to revive in its garb the repealed Press and Publications Ordinance imposed during the Ayub Khan Martial law in 1960.

News of such impending legislation to curb press freedom had been circulating for some time however, the draft of such legislation surfaced as an agenda item of the Press Council of Pakistan meeting that is being held in Islamabad (Monday) today. A cursory perusal of the draft legislation shows that besides seeking to control content and form in the print media as the 1960 black law did, the PPMRA shall be more repressive as it also seeks to control dissemination and distribution of newspapers.

In other words, the Newspaper agents and probably hawkers too would be regulated through this legislation. Under the 18th constitutional amendment, filing of declaration to publish a newspaper was the sole domain of the province from where it is to be published. Under the proposed PPMRA this right of the province is sought to be usurped by the federal government and a license to be issued by PPMRA would be required after filing of declaration before a newspaper can be published.

The PPMRA staff would have the right to enter the premises of newspaper establishments and to seal them to ensure compliance of their directives. The proposed PPMRA would replace Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance 2002 and Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Ordinance 2002 that shall stand repealed upon its enactment. It is learnt that members of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists PFUJ and the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) have begun consultations on resisting this move by an elected government to muzzle press freedom and the executive committees of these bodies are likely to meet urgently to resist trampling of freedom of expression, a right enshrined in the constitution.

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