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Media organisations protest anti-media resolution passed by Punjab Assembly

(PPF/IFEX) - Journalists and media organisations staged country-wide rallies to protest against the anti-media resolution passed by Punjab Assembly on Friday, July 09, 2010. The assembly resolution condemned "sections of the media" for their "irresponsible behaviour" that could have a "negative impact on the future of democracy and rule of law."

The resolution was moved by Sanaullah Khan Mastikhel, a member of the provincial assembly (MPA) of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the ruling party in Pakistan's most populous province of Punjab. The resolution was passed unanimously by the provincial assembly.

Among other things, the resolution said: "The Punjab Assembly has reservations regarding the irresponsible propaganda being conducted against democratic institutions, political leaders and public representatives by some sections of the media and believes this propaganda can have a negative impact on the future of democracy and the supremacy of law in Pakistan." The resolution unanimously condemned the "unnecessary propaganda campaign against democratic institutions and public representatives" and demanded "responsible sections of the media avoid presenting baseless, humiliating and irresponsible programmes against democratic institutions and political leaders in the larger interests of the nation and the country."

The resolution called upon "responsible, independent journalists" to come forward to discourage the trend of irresponsible reporting and character assassination of political and apolitical personalities for vested interests." The resolution also demanded that the government constitute a committee to take note of this situation and present recommendations regarding the conduct of the media.

In their speeches on the resolution, MPAs from the different political parties strongly criticised media groups, anchor persons and reporters terming them "blackmailers of a lower degree, corrupt and a threat to the democracy".

The resolution led to protest and condemnation from media personnel and organisations, including a country-wide protest on July 10, called by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). The resulting protest demonstrations by unions of journalists, press clubs, media organisations and journalists' bodies condemned the Punjab Assembly resolution and the Punjab government for patronising the anti-media campaign in order to deprive the people of their "right to know" by such tactics. The PFUJ declared that it would continue its protest until the withdrawal of the biased, undemocratic, unethical, unconstitutional and arbitrary resolution adopted by the Punjab Assembly.

A joint meeting of editors, publishers, journalists and media workers, organised by the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on July 12, strongly condemned the resolution as "shameful" and passed a resolution demanding that the Punjab government withdraw the resolution unconditionally and apologise for this anti-media stance.

PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League) leaders tried to control the damage by distancing themselved from the anti-media stance. PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, in a press conference in London, asked the party to expel MPA Mastikhel from the party while PML-N Senator Pervez Rasheed said that the moving of the motion against media was a mistake and the party would take steps to redress the situation. The PML-N has also decided to issue a show cause notice to Mastikhel, the mover of the resolution against the media.

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