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Pakistan's Human Rights Commission slams govt over new order to curb political criticism

ANI | Updated: Oct 03, 2020 05:22 IST

Lahore [Pakistan], October 3 (ANI): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday slammed Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government over a recent order by country's regulatory authority in a bid to curtail voices of political opponents critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The order prohibits news channels from broadcasting interviews and public addresses by "proclaimed offenders and absconders" on national television.
"The fact that this order follows closely on the heels of a speech by political Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, questioning the legitimacy of the 2018 elections, indicates that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) appears to be little more than a tool of political convenience rather than an objective, independent regulatory body. It is worth recalling that PEMRA did not deny airtime to former President Pervez Musharraf, who is also a proclaimed offender," HRCP said in a statement.
It said the government order violates citizens' right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Pakistan Constitution and also impinges on people's right to know.
"This step violates not only citizens' right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution but also impinges on people's right to know. HRCP believes that such orders reflect arbitrary censorship, with the very people who advocate it in one instance when it favours them, abandoning it in another when it does not," HRCP statement read.

This statement comes after PEMRA on Thursday had banned the broadcast and rebroadcast of any speech, interview or public address of absconders or proclaimed offenders, in response to former Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif's recent speeches criticizing the government as many state institutions including judiciary and the military from London.
Nawaz has been targeting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government and called for the removal of Khan from his post. He had left for London in 2019 after securing bail for medical treatment in multiple graft cases.
On Thursday, Pakistan's regulatory body had banned the broadcasting of content including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of sub-judice matter.
"If licensee fails to comply with the aforementioned directives, the authority shall take action under Section 29 and 30 of PEMRA Ordinance which may result in the imposition of fine and suspension/revocation of licence," the court order was quoted by The Express Tribune.
The human rights commission has consistently pointed to the growing censorship in Pakistan, even as the government claims that the press has never been freer. (ANI)