Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Wednesday lashed out at PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, alleging that the latter doled out Rs18 billion from national kitty to reward blue-eyed journalists and media channels at federal and Punjab levels during the party’s last tenure.
His statements come in the backdrop of Maryam Nawaz’s admission that a viral audio clip in which she can be heard instructing someone to stop ads to certain TV channels, was authentic.
"I am not saying it has been compiled from different [separate] occasions. It is my voice,” Maryam admitted during a press conference. “I was running the party’s media cell at that time and it is an old audio clip,” she added.
In the audio that went viral on social media, Maryam can be heard instructing someone that no advertisement will go to certain channels that she named.
Addressing the media, Fawad said that the PML-N vice president doled out public funds as head of a media cell. “With the approval of the party’s media cell, supervised by Maryam Nawaz, Rs9,625,430,902 were utilized for funding of federal government (advertisements), while around Rs10 billion for Punjab government.”
Flanked by Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, the minister announced to share the record with media persons after the briefing.
He said advertisements for the federal and provincial governments were managed by the ‘notorious media cell’ set up by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to reward specific journalists over stories in their favour.
Fawad said the story about media cell in 2015 had pointed out that a special media cell had been working under the direct supervision of Maryam Nawaz at the Prime Minister House.
Initially, 15 members were made part of the cell and later, Rs 20 million were allocated for additional recruitment and was mandated to run targeted media campaigns, he added.
He said Maryam Nawaz in Wednesday’s news conference affirmed that she was supervising the cell during PML-N tenure. A video clip of Maryam’s news conference was also screened.
Fawad said admission of Maryam of curtailing or blocking advertisements for specific television channels was certainly an immoral and illegal act.
“The handling of public funds by a private person is a crime under the jurisdiction of the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency), but also liable of disqualification,” he said while pointing out that Maryam had already been disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
The minister said Maryam’s admission had proved that as to how the PML-N carried out ‘systematic manipulation’ of the media during its last tenure.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said it was an eye-opening revelation for the journalist community and media organizations.
With this, it could be assumed that as to how much difficulty was being faced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf when it had not alternated such resources.
“We do not have the resources to dole out the huge amount of Rs15 to 18 billion to someone. We have decided to conduct a serious inquiry to probe the matter,” he said.
In response to a question, Hammad Azhar said such dirty tactics were tantamount to resorting to fascism. On the other hand, PML-N was used to accuse Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf as a fascist party of posting a tweet or challenging a media houses’ accusations.
“Maryam should clarify why some media houses still remembered her anxiously,” he said, adding that it could be assumed that the surfacing of various “fake videos and audiotapes were the handy work of Maryam’s media cell”.
PFUJ to move SC against Maryam
Hours after PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) came out to vehemently condemn what it described as the act akin to “stifling the media and financial exploitation of journalists”.
In a statement, Rana Muhammad Azeem, secretary-general of the PFUJ, went on to announce that the organisation would move the Supreme Court against the PML-N leader, seeking a trial against her.
He added that letters would also be written to international press freedom organisations regarding the matter.
(With inputs from APP)
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