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HRCP says ‘deeply concerned’ about govt’s special media tribunals

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday said it was deeply concerned about the governments’ decision to establish special media tribunals to settle cases of media organisations, workers, owners and citizens.

In a post on Twitter, the independent watchdog on human rights said, “HRCP is deeply concerned at the government’s announcement that it is setting up media tribunals. Given the government’s woeful record on press freedoms, HRCP urges it to refrain from pressurising the media further. How are tribunals expected to maintain the media’s independence?”

On Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said after the establishment of the tribunals, all media-related cases would be transferred to them, which would be bound to decide on the matter within 90 days of receiving complaints.

The decision to the effect had been taken as part of media rules and regulations the government intended to introduce in Pakistan like the best practices being followed in other democratic countries, she added.

Setting up the tribunals would make the media more responsible, she added.

Awan added, at present, media organisations, owners, workers and the civil society moved their media-related complaints to the judiciary to get relief. “The decision would help prevail truth and supremacy of law, besides encouraging the process of self-accountability in the media,” she added.

She said the tribunals would hear specific media complaints and any organisation or person having any complaint against the media could approach them.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, she said, was of the opinion that positive criticism was vital for the development of a society and better governance, but some elements were using freedom of expression for personal objectives.

The prime minister remarked that some elements were intentionally spreading baseless rumours to fulfil their nefarious designs and a section of media was being used as a tool, she added.

She quoted the prime minister as saying that it was being done to create mistrust between the people and the government.

Responding to questions from reporters, she said that all the stakeholders would be taken on board regarding the media tribunals, which would work under the supervision of the superior judiciary.

The tribunals would be free from government control or influence as government functionaries would also be accountable to them.

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