Fawad says media authority won’t be set up without stakeholders’ input

Minister assures CPNE delegation no step that curbs media freedom will be taken

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is addressing media after meeting delegation of the Council of the Newspapers Editors in Lahore. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE:

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday assured a delegation of newspaper editors that an authority to regulate the electronic, print and social media would be set up only after taking the input from all stakeholders.

The minister, while speaking to a delegation of the Council of the Newspapers Editors headed by Arif Nizami, clarified that the PTI believed in media freedom.

“All media organisations have been sent the concept paper of the authority which the government plans to set up,” he added.

“Now feedback from media organisations including the CPNE will be sought on it.”

The minister maintained that the ordinance circulating on social media was “fake news” and the government had nothing to do with it.

“This makes it necessary to introduce laws to ensure disinformation was not spread through social media, particularly on YouTube.”

The minister assured the delegation that if objections were raised on the concept paper, the government would not introduce new laws or amend existing ones that would give the impression that media freedom was being curbed.

He added that on the suggestion of the CPNE, all departments would be told to pay their outstanding dues to media organisations.

Fawad directed the Press and Information Department to chalk out a strategy for this purpose.

Nizami told the minister that media and political circles had serious reservations over the setting up of the Pakistan Media Development Authority.

“We want that no steps that undermined press freedom are taken so that the ties between the government and media organisations remain cordial,” he added.

The minister reiterated that the government did not intend to gag the media.

“The government wants better coordination between the Press Council, Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority, Audit Bureau of Circulation and the Registrar Office to ensure the rights of media workers.”

Also read: Why is the govt's planned media authority so controversial?

Other participants of the meeting included Mohammad Haider Ameen, Irshad Ahmed Arif, Ayaz Khan, Ijazul Haq, Kazim Khan, Aamir Mehmood, Abdul Rehman Mangrio, Ghulam Nabi Chandio, Hamid Hussain Abidi, Press Information Officer Sohail Ali Khan and PID Lahore DG Shafqat Abbas.

Earlier while talking to the media, Fawad reiterated the government’s willingness to negotiate with the opposition.

He added that the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, could appoint a focal person for this purpose.

He maintained that the government had already sent Shehbaz an invitation for talks.

“We want to improve ties with the opposition. We wanted to talk to them on reforms earlier, and we want to talk to them on the issue now,” he added.

Fawad also stressed the importance of the PPP and the PML-N sorting out their internal differences.

He emphasised the need for PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his aunt, Faryal Talpur, to settle their dispute.

Similarly, he added. PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz must also sort out their differences so that their party could be on the same page.

“The opposition, the PML-N- and the PPP, should support the government in the passage of election and judicial reforms in the country.”

The minister claimed that Maryam had "handed over her party to the PPP", whose chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, had in turn, "handed over his party to the PML-N".

“But now it seems that both parties have divorced each other,” he added.

Responding to a question, he underscored that the PTI had came to power with the vote of 20 million people.

The minister added that Pakistan Democratic Movement president, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, could not even win that power “even in the next 200 years”.

“He should only solemnise marriages because he is not fit for politics.”

Fawad reiterated that electronic voting machines (EVMs) would sort out the problem of allegations of poll rigging.

He denied that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had raised any objection to the use of technology and highlighted that it was the government’s job to issue policy guidelines to the commission.

“The ECP is a policy executing institution which is supposed to adopt technology and give its input on pros and cons of the technology,” Fawad said.

“We have asked the commission to test these machines and let us know if it requires any additional support. It is the government’s job to give policy guidelines while the ECP is an execution institution.”

Fawad said he would also soon give a demonstration of the EVMs at press clubs and bar councils where elections were held annually.

“The machines could be tried in the upcoming Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections,” he added.

Speaking about the upcoming budget, Chaudhry underlined that the government would easily have the federal and provincial budgets passed as it had full support of its allies in the Centre and Punjab.

“It is happened after a long time that the government is going to present a common man friendly budget. It is happening when entire world is facing challenging situation created in result of covid-19 pandemic.”

He underscored that despite Covid-19 challenges, the country's economy was stable and improving fast.

To a question about the ongoing investigation in Jahangir Tareen’s case, Fawad said all parliamentarians seen in the former PTI general secretary’s camp were loyal to the party and supported the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The PTI parliamentarians moving with Tareen in courts are showing solidarity with him in their personal capacity and personal relations with him.”

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