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Self-regulatory body should replace PEMRA, say media groups following government promise to abolish restrictive media law

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 31 March 2008 IFJ media release:

New Pakistan Government Promises to Abolish Anti-Media Law

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a pledge by Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gillani, to end restrictions on media by abolishing the amended Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance 2007 and to implement the Seventh Wage Award.

Pakistan's leading journalists' organisation, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), an IFJ affiliate, issued a joint statement with the All Pakistan Newspapers Employees' Confederation (APNEC) on March 29 calling on the Prime Minister to appoint a joint committee of all media stakeholders as a self-regulatory body to replace PEMRA.

The PFUJ and APNEC opposed any move to put PEMRA under the control of the Ministry of Information.

They also applauded the Prime Minister's undertaking to lift the ban on trade union and student union activities by abolishing the Industrial Relations Ordinance, IRO-2002.

"These are all welcome decisions and a true reflection of people's sentiments," the joint statement said. "The Prime Minister has set the tone and we will now see the implementation."

The implementation of the Wage Award, according to the PFUJ and APNEC, will demonstrate the new Pakistan Parliament's commitment to press freedom. It is the only issue on which the National Assembly, the Senate and the four provincial assemblies have passed unanimous resolutions.

"Prime Minister Gillani's decision to support and uphold press freedom is a long-awaited step forward to improve the rights and professional environment of journalists and media workers in Pakistan," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"The IFJ urges the new coalition government's leaders to honour their promises to the PFUJ and members of an IFJ international press freedom mission in mid-March that they would put Pakistan back on the path to a culture of free and independent media."

The IFJ joins the PFUJ and APNEC in acknowledging the persistence and commitment of all journalists and media workers who joined the 77-day struggle to defend press freedom after President Pervez Musharraf imposed restrictions on the media after declaring emergency rule on November 3, 2007.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

Updates alert on the announcement regarding PEMRA ordinance:

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