In a joint statement issued by APNS President Hameed Haroon and Secretary-General Sarmad Ali, shortly after Dr Awan’s announcement, the APNS said it “strongly rejects establishing Media Courts as proposed by Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information.
“They stated that the media is already braving strong pressures in the form of press advices and measures of intimidation from ruling quarters which tantamount to undeclared censorship. The proposed media courts would be an added and institutionalised lever for arm-twisting of media and reflects the mindset of present power centre that intends to curb voices of dissent by all means,” they added.
Further emphasising on the existing forums and institutions, the organisation said: “The APNS office bearers pointed out that in the presence of dispute and complaints resolution forum like Press Council of Pakistan and Pemra [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] there was no justification to form special courts for media.
“They urged upon the Federal Government to withdraw the proposal of Media Courts forthwith if it does not intend to strangulate the media in the country. The APNS reiterates its resolve to protect freedoms of press and expression in the country and continue to perform the role of watchdog of the rights of people of Pakistan,” the statement added.
Earlier in the day, Dr Awan had told reporters — after a meeting with the Pakistan Broadcasting Association’s (PBA) office-bearers — about initiatives in the pipeline to invigorate media industry protect workers.
The government planned to set up media courts to ensure prompt justice to media workers, besides coming up with a new advertising policy and issuing licenses to 58 new TV Channels, including 8 news and current affairs, she had said. The special assistant had also mentioned that the government was working for a mechanism like the Press Council in consultation with Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) to effectively address issues, pertaining to media employers and their employees, including the sudden downsizing of employees.