Govt's Decision To Restrict Media Coverage Of Convicts Violates Democratic Freedom


In a move seemingly targeted at opposition leaders facing court cases, the federal cabinet has decided to place restrictions on media coverage of convicts and absconders.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told media personnel after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the prime minister had directed the law minister to come up with a law to restrict media coverage of convicts and absconders.

Firdous Ashiq told media that those convicts and absconders who looted public money appeared on TV and were glorified by the media as they claimed their innocence and criticised the government.

In relation to the move by the federal cabinet, legal analyst Khalid Ranjha told Naya Daur that in the prevailing circumstances, a move to restrict media coverage of convicts and absconders seemed to be targeted at specific people, in that this could be termed a person-specific law.

He further said that if such a law was passed, it could be deemed a violation of the democratic right of expression.

The federal cabinet’s move comes as Maryam Nawaz is seeking the removal of her name from the Exit Control List (ECL) in order to visit her ailing father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the United Kingdom.

Firdous Ashiq’s comments were apparently targeted at Nawaz Sharif, his children, and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

The PM’s aide further said that the law would be made in collaboration between the law ministry and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet’s decision to place restrictions on the media coverage of convicts and absconders has received criticism on social media as well.

Journalist Asad Hashim stated that this was the kind of legislation one would expect under military dictatorships.

Another user said that the opposition leaders had faced an unofficial media ban over the past year and now it had been made official under the guise of curbing media coverage of convicts and absconders..

A journalist, Ammara Durrani, questioned if this was the deepening of democracy.

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