Bill restricting reporters on covering Parliamentary proceeding: journalists stage walkout against proposed law
Journalists covering Senate proceedings on Wednesday walked out of its press gallery against a proposed law described as a move to curb freedom of speech while reporting the proceedings of parliament. The bill titled Members of the Parliament (Power, Immunities and Privileges) Bill, 2014, was tabled in the Senate by PPP's Senator Farhatullah Babar last Monday proposes, among other things, some restrictions on reporters while covering proceedings of parliament.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2014
In its part-VI under the title "Publication of the debates and proceedings of the parliament", the bill states that the publication of a notice, report, paper, votes or proceedings of the parliament by order of the presiding office or other competent authority shall be deemed to be published by or under the authority of the parliament and no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person in respect of such publication.
The bill suggested that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against an editor, printer or publisher of any newspaper or any person connected with the editing, printing or publishing of a newspaper on account of the publication of a faithful and correct report, or a faithful, accurate and fair summary, of the proceedings of the parliament the publication whereof has not been prohibited by the presiding officer, or for making any fair comments on the proceedings of the parliament.
In its section 18 under the title "removal of strangers, etc", the bill proposes that the presiding officer or any other office of the parliament secretariat authorised by him on his behalf may; (C) prohibit a representative of a newspaper from attending the proceedings of the parliament for a specified period or permanently. If any person against whom an order has been made fails to obey such order, he may be removed by any officer of the parliament secretariat or a police office from the chamber or, as the case may be, the precincts of the parliament with the use of such force as may be necessary.
The bill has now been referred to a special committee to be constituted by chairman of the Senate for further deliberations. The protesting journalists termed the sections of the bill as a move to impose curbs on the media which, according to them, are against the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. They end their protest on the assurance of PML-N Senator Nisar Khan and ANP's Zahid Khan. They told journalists that they would strongly oppose any such bill to be tabled in the house.
Speaking on the floor of House, Zahid Khan said the house should not pass any law that aims at imposition of curbs on the media, adding that the bill needs to be revisited during proceedings of the special committee. PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, speaking on a point of order, called upon the government to immediately appoint the head of the PEMRA as per the directives of the Supreme Court. In his ruling, the presiding officer said that it was the responsibility of the government to make appointments on all the vacant positions of the national institutions. Robina Khalid of PPP said that some private TV channels were telecasting commercial advertisements of spurious drugs prescribed by quacks.