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Latest information on Arshad Sharif’s case sought

The chairman noted that Kenya has issued a report regarding Arshad Sharif’s case

By Our Correspondent
July 11, 2024
This image shows slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif. — AFP/File
This image shows slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday sought details of the current status of the Arshad Sharif case and the law on the protection of journalists.

Several committee members called for respecting the right to freedom of speech but expressed concern over the spread of fake and fabricated information, especially on social media.

Senator Syed Ali Zafar presided over a meeting of the committee, which was informed that the legal draft for the protection of journalists had been given to the Ministry of Human Rights. The chairman noted that Kenya has issued a report regarding Arshad Sharif’s case.

“The standing committee will also review this report and be informed about the current status of the case,” Ali Zafar said.

In response, Information Minister Attaullah Tarar said that the matter would be referred to the ministry concerned, and a briefing would be given to the committee.

The minister also informed the committee that all social media platforms are active in the country except ‘X,’ which was banned over compliance issues. This decision was taken by the caretaker government. He mentioned this while responding to a query by Senator Ali Zafar.

He explained that the Ministry of Interior had submitted its reply to the Islamabad High Court regarding the ban on ‘X,’ formerly Twitter. He added, “The matter is with the court, which will make an appropriate decision in this regard.”

The meeting of the standing committee was held at Parliament House. The forum approved the names of Senator Khaleda Ateeb and Senator Kamran Murtaza as members of the National Policy Board. A briefing was given on matters related to the working procedures and responsibilities of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, its subsidiaries, and related issues regarding the firewall.

Ali Zafar welcomed the committee members, the federal minister for information and broadcasting, and the representatives of the ministry to the meeting, assuring full cooperation of the standing committee for the improvement of the country’s affairs.

The chairman committee emphasised that freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every citizen. He mentioned that, together with the ministry, a plan would be adopted to ensure the public has access to factual information and that issues related to these institutions would be resolved efficiently.

Senator Irfan Siddiqui stressed that freedom of expression should be balanced. He mentioned an article falsely attributed to him in favour of the Taliban spreading on social media. Despite reaching out to the FIA and others, no action has been taken. He also debunked rumours about Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz building a fort for her office in Lahore, labelling them as baseless lies. He called for the responsible use of freedom of expression. Senator Pervez Rasheed lamented the lies and inappropriate language used on social media, noting that this language often comes from political figures. “In this society, you are not safe in your home,” he remarked.

Committee member Jam Muhammad said that while freedom of expression should be upheld, a strategy must be developed to prevent fake and fabricated news. He emphasised the importance of representing society responsibly and using the forum in the interest of the country and nation.

Senator Talal Chaudhry mentioned the need to fulfil the requirements of freedom of expression. He pointed out that a channel discredited in London is the most popular in Pakistan.

Senator Abdul Shakoor Khan observed that any ruling party tends to control the media and mentioned the prohibition of mentioning the name of the PTI founder, which he noted does not happen in any civilised society. Attaullah Tarar assured the committee of his ministry’s full support for the betterment of society. He recalled that during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure, significant matters were brought to parliament and voted on.Information Secretary Shahira Shahid briefed the committee, explaining that the ministry is responsible for making policy on national issues. She said that the ministry also handles matters related to government policies and initiatives concerning the media.“Provision of facilities for the development of the print media industry, government advertisements, audit circulation of newspapers, and promotion of government affairs on digital media, including external publicity and broadcasting, are part of our duties,” she noted.

Information Minister Ataullah Tarar suggested the government should have its own digital platform and mentioned plans to develop this at the Pak-China Friendship Centre.

“This was a gift from China, but the building is in very poor condition. It was intended for a media university, but such a university would be like creating a new white elephant. We are establishing an institution called the Centre for Digital Communication,” he explained.

Senator Sarmad Ali suggested utilising the state TV’s valuable assets to support and revive Radio Pakistan.