The civil society, rights activists and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) rejected the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), terming the proposed authority an attempt to suppress media freedom in the country. The representatives of civil society vowed to stand firmly with the journalists in this ‘war’ against media that is meant to curb press freedom. These views were expressed by renowned human rights activists, lawyers and veteran journalists during the three-day Federal Executive Council (FEC) of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) that kicked off on Wednesday in Lahore. The convention of journalists is jointly organised by the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) and Lahore Press Club in which hundreds of journalists will speak against the PMDA. “The government says that it is introducing the PMDA to control the fake news and disinformation. I am very clear when I say that our government is itself involved in spreading fake news and disinformation,” said renowned rights activist Hina Jilani, who is Chairperson of the HRCP. Addressing the convention of journalists on Wednesday, she said that freedom of expression is the primary issue of human rights, and this government is severely attacking the freedom of expression. “Everyone knows that the breathing space for journalists is already shrinking in Pakistan and now the government is planning to introduce a series of restrictions through PMDA, without consulting the stakeholders,” Jilani added. Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) Executive Director Bushra Khaliq said that she considers media as part of civil society; therefore, it is the collective responsibility to resist the restrictions imposed through PMDA. “It is really sad that you are labelled a traitor in Pakistan when you talk about your rights; you are a traitor when you talk about journalists; you are a traitor when you talk about farmers; and you are also a traitor when you talk about students or teachers,” she lamented. Dr Ammar Ali Jan of Haqooq-e-Khalq movement thanked the PFUJ and PUJ for gathering all the segments of society on one platform through this process of dialogue. “There is a dire need to bring all the segments on a single platform to launch a collective effort that demands basic fundamental rights,” he said. Speaking on the occasion, PFUJ Secretary-General and veteran journalist Nasir Zaidi said, “It is the worst time for media in Pakistan right now, as we had never seen such kind of restrictions in our decades-long struggle. Our sit-in in Islamabad has shaken the corridors of power and this struggle will continue.” Veteran journalist Hussain Naqi-who trained three generations of journalists-said that the government is the biggest institution that spreads fake news and disinformation. “You were responsible for spreading fake news during the time of East Pakistan’s debacle. And you were also responsible for breaking Pakistan,” Naqi claimed while addressing the echelons of power. Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari, PUJ President Qamar Bhatti, National Press Club Islamabad President Shakeel Anjum and PFUJ President Shehzada Zulfiqar also addressed on the occasion. The journalists’ convention will continue for three days in Lahore.