The sealing of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) office by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has once again highlighted the antagonistic nature of the relationship between the media and the Pakistani state. According to the LDA, it took the action based on complaints received from residents in the area about commercial activities at the SAFMA office. What it has not commented on thus far is how it did not give any notice for its action and that it had received a stay order from a civil court. Furthermore, the complaints on which LDA was acting were first filed at the Lahore High Court (LHC) several years ago and it is not clear what prompted the LDA to respond to them at this point in time. The ‘commercial activities’ in question are merely the running of the South Asian Media Library (SAML) — the only facility of its kind available to journalists in Lahore. Strangely enough, there are numerous other commercial entities in residential areas all over the city, which operate without having to fear any action from the LDA, such as private schools which attract hundreds of cars every day. Also read: Desperate measures indeed The SAFMA office must be unsealed immediately as LDA’s actions were in violation of the LHC’s orders, which gave no grounds for the sealing of the office or SAML. This is not the first time SAFMA has been targeted this way either. The organisation has been falsely accused of receiving funding from foreign intelligence agencies like India’s RAW on national television by the usual suspects more than once. At a news conference following the sealing of its office, a high ranking SAFMA official complained that the organisation had been targeted by the government for a long time. The LDA’s unilateral actions have only given credence to allegations that media freedoms remain under siege in Pakistan. This has happened at a time when the international media’s eyes are already set on Pakistan because of alleged pre-poll rigging in the recent general elections. Lahore Left Front convener Farooq Tariq has already called SAFMA “the first victim of Naya Pakistan”. The LDA must undo the damage by unsealing the SAFMA office and addressing the local residents’ complaints through due process. * Published in Daily Times, August 3rd 2018.