Tuesday May 24, 2022

‘Crackdown against hate speech soon’

February 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Hussain Chaudhry on Wednesday said that the government is gearing up for a ‘strict crackdown’ on extremist narratives and hate speech on social media in a few weeks.

“The informal media is a greater problem than formal media, so the need is to build a capacity through a one-window operation for social media, print media and electronic media and we will be able to monitor the media, trace fake accounts and those who break the law could be prosecuted,” he emphasised.

Speaking here at the closing session of training workshop for legislators, Fawad said, “We have created a mechanism through which we will control hate speech on social media as well, a working group, consisting of agencies. This week, we have made some important arrests on the basis that they used social media to issue fatwas and advance their extremist narratives and threats. In the next few weeks, we will launch a big crackdown.”

Fawad made it clear that the state would not allow extremists to dictate their narrative by use of force. He continued, “Our problem is that the digital media is gaining ground, therefore, it is important for us to regulate this. We are bringing a new authority, the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority, which will serve as a one-window operation for digital, print and electronic media and regulations will be enforced through it.

“The state wants dialogue but that cannot happen if others do not let you do that. If you are told that my opinion is final and if you disagree, I will shoot you or you should be hanged for saying this, then you are using the state’s powers. Only the state has the power to use force. Any individual cannot be allowed to do the same,” he argued.

The minister contended there was also a need for an international debate and it is taking place too. “We are very glad that his Royal Highness is coming to Pakistan and the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 actually also provides a massive opportunity against extremism. We want to build a national and international narrative against extremism and we believe in making the laws reign supreme in Pakistan,” he remarked.

Fawad explained how Pakistan had managed to rid itself of what he called an irregular conflict which, he said, was more complicated than regular conflicts wherein at least the enemy's identity was clear.

He noted, “Our problem was that we got stuck in an irregular conflict in Afghanistan. Regular conflicts united the nations as it happened in 1965 when the entire country knew that the battle was against India. But in irregular conflicts, you do not know the enemy and that creates doubts in minds.

“It was due to our resilience that we have almost managed to escape this irregular conflict. Any other society may have got shattered in similar circumstances; we have seen that happen in the Middle East. We have been wounded, we have sacrificed 70,000 lives, blood was shed everywhere but we are now out of it. The next phase is to consolidate on this and not to allow people to exhibit hatred because the first stage of [this process] is extremism and the next is terrorism. The seed of terrorism is sowed through extremism,” he said.

“Dialogue is a basic principle of a society and if that goes missing, there will be bloodshed. The extremist part of the society says that we won't allow dialogue and whosoever disagrees with my opinion, we will issue fatwas against them,” he opined.

He continued, “This is where the state comes into play. The people have complete right to stick to their opinions and express themselves. However, people do not have the right to curb others' freedom. The extent of my freedom ends where others' begins. This principle of the freedom of expression is the genesis of Article 19.”

“Some think that their freedom of expression is limitless. No sir, there is no liberty in the world that is without an extent. So you cannot infringe upon my freedom for the sake of your freedom. We have laws for this but they could not be enforced earlier due to political issues but now that we have made it out of the irregular conflict, it's the state's responsibility to address this and not to allow hate speech,” the minister contended.

He said the first stage of hate speech was extremism and the second one was terrorism and the seed of terrorist was sown in extremism, therefore, ever since the PTI government came into being, things were being pushed ahead under a system, as a decision was taken to ensure implementation of the law.

The minister was of the view that one opinion could be formed on elimination of terrorism only by allowing the other to also speak up. “But here, the state has an important role: no state can let anyone usurp freedom of the other,” he maintained.

On this occasion, the minister expressed gratitude to the formal media for helping the government to curb hate speech.