According to a bill passed by Punjab Assembly, government officials now have the right to confiscate any written material submitted for publishing. This means that the Punjab Directorate General for Public Relations (DGPR) is now officially in charge of deciding what is publishable and what is not.
Reportedly, a book’s publication can be halted “if it is prejudicial to national interest, culture, and religious and sectarian harmony” (see here). Seeing as the bill is titled the Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam bill, it is safe to say that safeguarding of religious values is primarily what the assembly had in mind when drafting it.
The gravity of such an action shouldn’t be too hard to comprehend. Usually, authors trust certified and experienced editors to give their books a final read-through. If they don’t have an editor, they may give their books to fellow authors or mentors to read and critique. What a writer of a book never thinks is, ‘oh, maybe the government will do me a solid’. The fact is, government officials aren’t trained or qualified editors and critics.
The invasion of authorship freedom is another obvious concern in regards to this new bill. There is no telling how far the DGPR will go. The problem is, by ‘book’ they don’t just mean what the word typically suggests. A ‘book’ can be anything involving words: on a sign, map, chart and published in any language on any sort of medium. Hence it seems everything written and published from this point onwards will be up for debate.
This is laughable, not only because it is such an outright infringement but also because it takes away all sense of ownership. An author’s written word is sacred: a product of blood, sweat, and tears. Besides, how far will they go is another pressing concern. Citizen journalism could be in grave danger. Blogs, articles, poetry, tweets – it could all be ‘confiscated’ in a hot second.