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Black press law: PPP opposes draft PPMRA Ordinance

ISLAMABAD -UNS: Vice-President PPPP, Senator Sherry Rehman voiced her strong opposition against the draft Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority (PPMRA) Ordinance which threatens to roll back hard won press freedoms in Pakistan.

During the last PPP government’s term Rehman said, “We repealed this kind of black press law in the first hundred days of our government. It was a promise Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had made to the press only a few days before she was martyred as she had joined the media protests against media curbs on the streets of Islamabad.

The PPMRA Ordinance threatens to curb the media and the public’s freedom of press and information and makes a mockery of Pakistan’s democracy.” 

A recent survey revealed that, 51% of Pakistanis trust the quality and integrity of Pakistani media whereas 48% do not. In 2017, Pakistan ranked 139 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, an improvement from past reports. However, Pakistan remains under the ‘not free’ status in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report.

Rehman expressed her disbelief over the possibility for the PPMRA Ordinance to become law, saying, “The genesis of this law can be traced backed to the darkest days of Pakistan under military rule, the days when media freedom was a dream quite distant. This Ordinance, if passed, will single-handedly wipe all of the hard work brave journalists and civil society activists put in order for Pakistan to have press freedom after the oppressive Zia regime”.

Pakistan has seen a dramatic growth in its traditional media landscape and online penetration as the country transitioned to democracy. There are around 64 private television channels, 89 commercial FM radio channels and 138 daily newspapers operating in Pakistan. 35.1 million Pakistanis are internet users and 31 million are active social media users.

“It is rather alarming that such a draconian law can even see the day of light under a democratically elected government in the 21st century. Freedom of press and information are major pillars for consolidated democracy,” said the Vice-President of the PPP.

“The government must publicly renounce any possibility that the anti-democratic PPMRA Ordinance will become law. If the government continues with its repressive and regressive policies against press freedom, the media, opposition and civil society must unite and oppose the PPMRA Ordinance. We have opposed it and repealed it before and for the sake of our future generation, we must do it again if it comes to that,” concluded the Senator.

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