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Press freedom overriding priorities: Shibli Faraz

February 04, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Wednesday said the overriding priority of the current government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan was to ensure complete freedom of expression as provided in the provisions of the 1973 Constitution. He was responding to the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors' (CPNE) annual report on freedom of media in Pakistan, published in newspapers on February 01.

The minister, in a letter to CPNE President Arif Nizami, said contrary to the assertions made in the report, even casual reader of the newspapers and viewers of the talk shows would testify that the freedom of expression enjoyed in the country was comparable to that of any Western democracy. “The safety, security and well-being of the media persons are closer to our hearts,” he added.

He said, “I must add here that the report does not provide any data or iota of evidence in support of the allegations. However, the ministry would continue to work with the journalistic bodies, including APNS (All Pakistan Newspapers Society), CPNE, PBA (Pakistan Broadcasters Association) and PFUJ (Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists) to ensure the steps which the ministry can take to ameliorate the sufferings of the media industry.”

He assured the CPNE that the government would take all necessary steps to ensure freedom of press in the country, and to ensure the safety and security of the working journalists.

According to the CPNE report, at least 10 Pakistani journalists were murdered and several others threatened, kidnapped, tortured and arrested last year. The minister replied that the CPNE report did not provide any details of the journalists, who were either murdered or targeted, and also whether the journalists were targeted by the law and order agencies or otherwise. “Since law and order is a provincial matter, we will seek details from the concerned stakeholders, and will ensure that justice is delivered to the bereaved families. No crime against journalists will go unpunished.”

The report mentioned that at least nine journalists died of COVID-19, to which the minister replied that the government was getting details of all the journalists who died due to the pandemic, and the ministry would provide financial assistance to their families.

The CPNE report also claimed that attempts to silence the press continued throughout the year. On this, the minister commented that as per constitutional provisions, there was complete freedom of press in the country, and everybody was free to express his or her views. Any attempts by the government to silence the press must be shared with the ministry.

Meanwhile, Shibli Faraz has welcomed the step of starting national coronavirus vaccination drive in all the provinces simultaneously.

In a post on Twitter, the minister said all the federating units have been provided equal opportunities in this connection. Protection of nation’s health and employment is the first priority in new Pakistan, he added.