ISLAMABAD - Vice-President Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman on Monday termed the draft Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority (PPMRA) Ordinance “a mockery of Pakistan’s democracy”.

In a statement, she voiced her strong opposition against the draft PPMRA Ordinance, which “threatens to roll back hard won press freedoms in Pakistan.”

During the last PPP government's term, Senator Rehman said: “We repealed this kind of black press law in the first hundred days of our government. It was a promise Benazir Bhutto had made to the press only a few days before she was martyred as she had joined the media protests against media curbs on the streets of Islamabad.”

She added: “We must remember that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is a human right that is stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Pakistan voted in favour of. This pernicious draft cannot be allowed to become a law. The PPMRA Ordinance threatens to curb the media and the public's freedom of press and information and makes a mockery of Pakistan’s democracy .”

A recent survey revealed that, 51 per cent of Pakistanis trust the quality and integrity of Pakistani media whereas 48 per cent do not.

In 2017, Pakistan ranked 139 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, an improvement from past reports.

However, Pakistan remains under the “not free” status in Freedom House’s freedom of the press report.

The PPP lawmaker expressed her disbelief over the possibility for the PPMRA Ordinance to become law, saying, “The genesis of this law can be traced backed to the darkest days of Pakistan under military rule, the days when media freedom was a dream quite distant. This ordinance, if passed, will single-handedly wipe all of the hard work brave journalists and civil society activists put in order for Pakistan to have press freedom after the oppressive Zia[ul Haq] regime.”

Pakistan has seen a dramatic growth in its traditional media landscape and online penetration as the country transitioned to democracy .

There are around 64 private television channels, 89 commercial FM radio channels and 138 daily newspapers operating in Pakistan.

At least 35.1 million Pakistanis are internet users and 31 million are active social media users.

“It is rather alarming that such a draconian law can even see the day of light under a democratically elected government in the 21st century. Freedom of press and information are major pillars for consolidated democracy ,” said the vice-president of the PPP.

The senator said the government must publicly renounce any possibility that the anti-democratic PPMRA Ordinance would become law.

“If the government continues with its repressive and regressive policies against press freedom, the media, opposition and civil society must unite and oppose the PPMRA Ordinance. We have opposed it and repealed it before and for the sake of our future generation, we must do it again if it comes to that,” she added.