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ISLAMABAD: Breaking all the security barricades, a large number of journalists Sunday reached in front of the Parliament House and started their sit-in protest against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Bill 2021. President Dr Arif Alvi is scheduled address the joint sitting of Parliament on Monday amid an expected protest by the opposition against the PMDA Bill, as well as, the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021 due to the passed from the joint session.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has given the protest call and journalists from across the country Sunday started to gather in the National Press Club from where they marched towards the Parliament House and started a sit-in.

As per the notification of the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday, the timing of the joint sitting has been changed from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, which also stated that President Dr Arif Alvi will address the joint sitting at the advent of the fourth parliamentary year.

As the Order of the Day for Monday's session carries only one agenda item - address of the President - the sources said that the joint sitting would be re-summoned for passage of the two bills after its prorogation upon the address of the President.

The opposition parties have already extended their support to the journalist community and vowed to resist the passage of the PMDA bill, as well as, the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021. The nine-party opposition alliance - Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) - has already announced its boycott of the joint session of Parliament.

Addressing the protesting journalists, former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is also secretary-general of the PDM, said that it was unfortunate that media is getting freedom across the globe while in Pakistan efforts are being made to suppress the media and impose curbs on the freedom of speech through such black laws.

He said that Pakistan is the only country where new methods are applied every day how to impose new curbs on the media. He said that it was not a political issue, but an issue of every Pakistani as an attempt is being made to snatch the rights of people.

"When there is no freedom of the media, then there would be no freedom for the citizens," he said, adding that from Gen Ayub to Gen Musharraf, efforts were made to impose curbs on the media and journalists.

Abbasi assured the journalists community of his party and PDM's continued support to their struggle for freedom of the media.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Shazia Marri said that her party has already rejected the PMDA bill and it will continue to support the journalist community in their fight for freedom of the media.

"We will never allow the kind of darkness they are going to bring in the country through the PMDA bill... We reject this media "martial law"... We will never leave the journalist community alone in their struggle," she said, adding that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has raised his voice for the freedom of the media.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) lawmaker Shahid Akhtar Ali said that the entire opposition stands by the journalist community in their fight for the freedom of the media, adding that the opposition would make every effort to block the passage of the bill.

PML-N Secretary Information Marriyum Aurangzeb has slammed the PTI government for its draconian and autocratic measures to defy Pakistani journalists their constitutional right to peaceful protest.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the "fascist" government has abused the state machinery to block democratic and peaceful protest by journalists from across the country against the PMDA "black law".

She said the journalist fraternity of Pakistan had stood up for the sanctity of journalistic values and their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press granted to them by the Constitution.

She recalled that the same PTI staged a 120-day sit-in against the elected Prime Minister at D-Chowk, attacked, battered and wounded policemen, hung dirty laundry on the august building of the Supreme Court, cursed the Parliament, attacked the Prime Minister House, gave a call for civil disobedience, and asked people to reject formal banking channels and conduct financial transactions through Hundi to sabotage national economy.

"The same PTI did not have the honour or audacity to even allow journalists their right to protest peacefully and deployed scores of security personnel and put up barricades to prevent protest against the tyrannical PMDA law that seeks to gag news media and silence the truth," she maintained.

Earlier, the protesting journalists marched from the National Press Club to the Parliament House under strict security, as a heavy contingent of law enforcement agencies personnel was deployed and barricades placed to prevent them from reaching the Parliament.

However, they removed all the barricades to reach the venue and started a sit-in protest. However, scores of more journalists from across the country were expected to reach the Parliament House by late Sunday night.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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