Tuesday May 28, 2024

‘Defence ministry asked not to legislate law without its NOC’

By Asim Yasin
July 22, 2016

Right to Information

ISLAMABAD: Senator Farhatullah Babar on Thursday said hate speech flourishes, history is distorted and the curriculum is disfigured in the name of religion while freedom of expression is stifled in the name of national security, so-called morality and contempt of court.

“The 18th Amendment in 2010 has made the right to information a fundamental right by inserting Article 19-A in the Constitution. All the provinces had legislated the Right To Information (RTI),” he said speaking at a seminar on media regulations in a hotel in Islamabad on Thursday.

However, the federal government had failed to legislate the RTI though the Senate Information Committee had finalised the draft RTI and the government also promised to adopt it as a government bill, he said and then asked why it was so.

He disclosed that when the Senate committee began its work on the RTI in 2013, it asked all the stakeholders, including the Defence Ministry, to give their views on the draft legislation. “While all the stakeholders participated in the deliberations, the Defence Ministry, instead of giving its view, asked the committee not to legislate the RTI without obtaining an NOC from it,” he added.

He said the Senate committee, of course, dismissed this contemptuous direction of the Defence Ministry in the name of national security and proceeded to finalise the draft law. “I leave it to your imagination to conclude as to why the federal RTI is not being legislated. We have to strike a balance between considerations of ‘security interest’ as defined by the security establishment and the larger ‘public interest’,” he added.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said the national security was so all pervasive and ingrained in the psyche that the media also resorted to self censorship. Giving examples, he said despite the availability of visuals, the media initially declared that Mullah Mansour had been killed in Zabul inside Afghanistan and not in Pakistan because it was the state narrative in the name of national security.

“The mainstream media exercised self-imposed censorship in the matter of punishment of senior military officers for corruption despite the fact that the reports were not contradicted by the ISPR,” he added.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said the proposed Cyber Crimes Bill in its present form was also a threat to freedom of expression as well as to privacy. He proposed for a regional conference on the “Right to Dissent, Right to Information & Freedom of Expression”, including expression of religious beliefs.