Thousands of journalists in Pakistan have protested in front of the parliament against a draft law they say will tighten government control over the media and undermine press freedom.
Journalists conducted a sit-in protest overnight and continued into September 13 as the parliament opened for a new session in which it may approve the new law.
The proposed bill would repeal existing media laws and replace them with a new regulatory authority, the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
The PMDA would have the power to shutter media organizations and envisions the establishment of tribunals to penalize journalists and media outlets for "defaming" military generals, judges, and government leaders.
The International Press Institute said it fears the PMDA law would “gravely weaken press freedom in Pakistan.”
“The PMDA bill would expand state control over media and therefore undermine the watchdog role that the press must play in any democracy,” IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.
Under the law, the government would also tighten its control over social media.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan joined the protests and expressed concerns over what it called a “draconian” regulatory framework.
Pakistan ranks near the bottom of global freedom indexes.
Reporters Without Borders says the military “cannot stand independent journalism” and exerts strong pressure over the media, something that has increased since Imran Khan became prime minister in 2018.
Several journalists have been the targets of violent attacks, while others have been tortured, kidnapped, intimidated, forced off-air, or have lost their jobs for criticizing the country's powerful military and intelligence agencies. Militant groups have also targeted the media.