ISLAMABAD - Media persons and other media rights advocacy organisations have said that the federal government’s announcement of setting up special tribunals for taking up complaints against media without prior consultations with primary stakeholders smacks of mala fide intention to bring the already beleaguered journalism in Pakistan under increased pressure.

In a joint press release issued here on Wednesday, various national press freedom and media rights advocacy organisations said, “We believe the move to erect a parallel judicial structure is unjustified as platforms are already available for taking up any complaint against violation of media ethics, and the proposal to establish media tribunals is the latest attempt to increase pressure on the media.”

Special Adviser to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, had informed the media on September 17 about the setting up of special tribunals for taking up complaints against media.

She said, “The prime minister has ordered that a bill envisaging formation of media tribunals be tabled in the current National Assembly for a healthy debate on the issue and the government will sit with the media organizations on the matter later.”

Freedom Network and IRADA said: “It is extremely worrying to note why the government is in a haste to table the bill when by its own admission no single stakeholder was consulted. In democracy, first the primary stakeholders’ opinion and proposals are invited before taking any final decision. The government proposal speaks of a dictatorial mindset in which a decision is already made before consultative process is kicked off.”

Dr Awan did not explain why these tribunals were necessary and that currently operational platforms addressing such complaints would get redundant once the tribunals began working.

The idea of establishing media courts echoed in July this year invoking sharp criticism from Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) saying it is based on “hidden agenda” of the government.