ISLAMABAD: PPP parliamentary leader in Senate Senator Sherry Rehman has said that Higher Education Commission Ordinance is not being laid in the Senate nor is it becoming a bill. “What is the purpose of this parliament if they want to run the country through ordinances,” she questioned. “This is extremely worrying. Our rights and responsibilities are being compromised. The President’s House has become an ordinance factory,” she said. Moving on to another worrying development, the government has now come up with the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Ordinance 2021, which will now be used as a tool for institutionalizing censorship and curbing media freedom,” she said. “This is a combination of Zia and Musharraf’s black laws. Is this the direction the government wants to take us towards,” she questioned. “We have no objections on regulating the media but trying to control the narrative and quashing all sane and critical voices is another issue which needs to be addressed,” she said. “It’s a matter of shame and embarrassment that the world now sees Islamabad as the most dangerous place for journalism,” she said, adding that silencing the media means silencing everyone. “This ordinance needs to be laid in the house so we can regulate it.” She said that PPP ensured that Zia and Musharraf’s black laws were repealed but this government was bringing the same laws back under the guise of this new ordinance. “A lot of our hard work and struggle had gone into this to ensure that our democracy can flourish but the government wants to suppress the media through this mini martial law,” she added. The PPP leader asked, “You are labelled as a ‘traitor’ if you disagree with the government.” She said that constructive criticism needs to be tolerated. “We already have penalties in Pakistan but the penalties that they want to bring through this ordinance are atrocious. We already have IT and regulation committees, let them do their job,” she said. “Pakistan was ranked 139th on the World Press Freedom Index when this government came into power and three years later, we are 145th on the list. The voices of the opposition and media are being stifled. Through this ordinance, the government is saying that you will not be able to get a license if you don’t become a mouthpiece for us. Any kind of independent reporting will lead to your channel being shut down,” she added. Sherry Rehman said that organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists have taken notice of the journalists being attacked in Pakistan. In 2020, Pakistan ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalist’s annual Global Impunity Index. “The shrinking space for dissent is being noticed by everyone.” In case they need a reminder, it was the ruling party which started the tradition of trolling on social media, she said. “People with their party flags are involved in using abusive language, ridiculing politicians, and harassing women online,” she said, adding that the government does not realise the repercussions this PMDA Ordinance will have and it was something they seriously need to review. “This is our country and we will do whatever it takes to protect democracy in Pakistan,” Senator Sherry Rehman concluded the remarks.