Washington, D.C., September 18, 2019 — Pakistan’s federal cabinet has approved an initiative to establish specialized courts aimed at resolving media-related issues, the government announced yesterday, according to news reports. The proposal drew swift condemnation on social media from human rights and press freedom organizations.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that Pakistani authorities are moving forward with this vague plan to establish specialized media courts, despite an outcry from local journalists,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Instead, Pakistan needs to strengthen the nation’s democracy by freeing newspapers and broadcasters from the intense official pressures they already face.”
The courts would handle cases currently processed by Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and Press Council, and would resolve cases within 90 days, according to those reports. The reports said the government has not consulted with media outlets about the initiative, which it plans to submit as legislation to the National Assembly for approval.
Last year, CPJ issued a special report documenting the intense pressures and intimidation faced by media outlets in Pakistan.