ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) — set up during the PTI government's tenure — has been disbanded, newly elected Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced Tuesday.
"An attempt was being made to gag an already muzzled media. But now, in whatever shape and form PMDA is working, we have announced to disband it," the minister — who took oath hours earlier — told journalists on Tuesday.
Aurangzeb said the coalition government would not allow the imposition of curbs on freedom of expression in the country as she termed the PMDA a "black law".
She mentioned that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had termed the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) Amendment Ordinance "unconstitutional" due to the efforts of journalists and PML-N as well.
"So now, we will review this PECA law and take all stakeholders on board in this regard. We will also identify the gaps which are there and were used to muzzle the media," Aurangzeb added.
The information minister said for the last four years, the Pakistani society experienced suffocation, may it be in the form of abusive language, targeting of politicians, black laws, or ordinances.
"I think we should now move towards a new beginning as a coalition government has been formed that represents entire Pakistan," the information minister said.
In response to a question, Aurangzeb said the government has gathered data on the bot Twitter accounts that were being operated to malign the institutions and run trends against them.
"This does not come under freedom of expression as these campaigns are being run through software. There is zero tolerance on such trends and campaigns," the information minister said.
Aurangzeb warned the PTI that it could not protest outside journalists' homes just because their government failed to deliver. "There will be zero tolerance regarding this and we have instructed the inspector general of Islamabad to make sure that culprits are published."
Aurangzeb noted that the government would not take revenge on its political opponents, but whosoever has done something illegal while in office, action will be taken against them.
With regards to President Arif Alvi refusing to administer the oath to the federal cabinet and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Aurangzeb said the president should be aware of the fact that he is not a member of the PTI, but has a constitutional role.
"...if he cannot fulfil the oath he took while becoming president, then the best option for him is to resign," the information minister told Alvi, who refused to administer oaths to the coalition government's members, and in his absence, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani administered the oaths.
Aurangzeb also said confidently that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was going to London, but once he comes back, he would take his oath as the federal minister.
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif had confirmed a day earlier that Bilawal would become the next foreign minister, but the PPP chairman did not attend today's oath-taking ceremony.
Apart from Bilawal, nine other federal and state ministers from PPP took oath today, including Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar, Sherry Rehman, Abdul Qadir Patel, Shazia Marri, Syed Murtaza Mahmud, Sajid Hussain Turi, Ehsan ur Rehman Mazari, and Abid Hussain Bhayo.
The newly elected information minister added that the prime minister would also address the nation in a day or two and would announce the government's long and term goals.
At the outset of her first press briefing after becoming the information ministry, Aurangzeb said during the previous government's tenure, Pakistan's media industry went through a dark phase, facing a financial crisis, the firing of journalists, muzzling of freedom of expression, censorship, and other problems that the journalists faced.
The journalists were shot and abducted during PTI's tenure, she said. "...Absar Alam, Matiullah Jan, Hamid Mir, and Asad Toor all faced troubles in the last four years, and I stand in solidarity with them," the newly elected federal minister said.
She noted that accountability by the media was crucial for the government as it helps the rulers rectify themselves and serve the people better.
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