Naya Pakistan, Same Freedom of Expression Repression

As we at New Pakistan have often stated, freedom of expression and of the media are critical for Pakistan’s future. Another sign that Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is really worse than Purana Pakistan was seen on August 1 when the Lahore office of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) was sealed by the Lahore Development authority on the flimsy grounds that it was “commercial activity” within a “residential area.”

SAFMA’s Secretary General Imtiaz Alam stated that since the organization is a non-profit its activities “don’t fall in the definition of commercialization.” SAFTA is a subsidiary of SAARC and is a legally certified organization.

The LDA administration argued that “it took the action after many people of the area approached the Lahore High Court several years ago, requesting it to intervene into the matter by directing the government to stop commercial activities in the residential area.”

In an editorial Dawn pointed out that this action “comes at a time when different media outlets, journalists and local and international rights groups are complaining of increasing pressure on the media and restrictions on free speech in Pakistan.”

The editorial noted that “It is no secret that a few SAFMA officials have been vocal in raising their concerns over this growing pressure on major media outlets to toe a particular line and they have questioned the fairness of the July elections.”

The editorial asked the question: “We must ask to what extent can running a library and a school for teaching journalists the media code of ethics be classified as a commercial activity. Especially when the LDA has not taken action against those in other residential areas of the city who are seen as ‘causing disturbance to the people’ living there. The LDA should have come up with a better explanation for its sudden action as the case, according to SAFMA officials, is still with the Lahore High Court pending a final decision.”

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