Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib has assured the representatives of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) that the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Ordinance is not aimed to curtail press freedom.
Addressing concerns of the CPNE during a visit to the head office of Daily Times (DT) in Lahore, the minister said controlling media is “not possible in the modern age of information”, a statement issued by the CPNE said on Monday.
He explained that the government is in negotiations with international social media giants to convince them to set up representative offices in Pakistan, “without which it is increasingly difficult to monitor harmful and offensive content online”.
On a number of occasions, social media has been used to propagate anti-Pakistan as well as anti-Muslim agenda – mostly from fake accounts set up in India – and it becomes difficult to interact with those platforms until they have representation inside the country, the minister added.
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“Our efforts are aimed at facilitating the flow of genuine news while rooting out fake and false propaganda in the shortest possible time,” he said, adding that it is because of lack of proper communication between interest groups and stakeholders that certain members of the press got the impression that the government wanted to “control” it.
For this reason, Farrukh said the government feels it is necessary to have a platform like the PMDA and added that he is tasked with taking all stakeholders into confidence regarding the PMDA Ordinance.
The government is committed to streamlining the entire media industry in keeping with the evolving demands and trends of the present times and for that purpose, the PMDA is meant to act as an “umbrella organisation”, the minister added.
Representatives of the press are fearful that the PMDA might be misused to exercise central control over the flow of news in the country and advised the government against “reinventing the wheel”, but the minister explained that all commissions and tribunals that are proposed in the PMDA will have due and equal representation from the industry to make sure that their interests are not compromised.
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