Minister in Pakistan defuses attempt for curbing freedom of press

Eurasia News

Islamabad, Pakistan: A minister in Pakistan has defused an attempt to curb freedom of press that Pakistani media got through a long history of struggle against undemocratic governments.

Strangely, the attempt of curbing freedom of press came from nowhere but from the ministry she is heading as the state minister.

In a press conference held today here in capital of Pakistan, the Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage of Pakistan, Marriyum Aurangzeb revealed details of a fact finding inquiry into the drafting of an ordinance to put curbs on the print media.

This attempt from a high official of her ministry came on surface just a week before a very high profile political event that was scheduled to take place. News about curbing press freedom could damage government-media relations just a week before by-election of National Assembly where wife of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in run for retaking seat that stood empty after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by Supreme Court of Pakistan. This election was a matter of political survival for ruling party and government-media relationship were on verge of collapse when media came to know that a dangerous law was being prepared in the ministry of Information. However, timely intervention of Marriyum Aurangzeb did well to damage control and she called for an initial departmental inquiry before NA-120 by election and today she shared findings of initial inquiry report with journalists.

While addressing press conference state minister Marriyum Aurangzeb revealed that a senior bureaucrat Director General (DG) of the Internal Publicity (IP) Wing of the ministry Nasir Jamal was solely responsible for drafting an anti-press draft ordinance.

Pakistan defuses an attempt for curbing freedom of press
Pakistan defuses an attempt for curbing freedom of press

The minister said that the DG intentionally concealed the facts from the high-ups and presided over two meetings on the subject in his office and gave instructions for the preparation of the draft to replace PCP Ordinance, following which three letters were also issued to the Pakistan Press Council.

She said that the Chairman of PCP in response to the letters sent out from the ministry had informed Nasir Jamal that before initiating any amendments in the law the Council would have to consult its stakeholders which would take some time.

Minister said that the DG did not even bring that letter into the notice of the Secretary or the minister. She added that the willful concealment of facts and an attempt to drive a wedge between the media and the government was extremely regrettable and everybody was deploring this act. She said that the government did not believe in gagging the media.

She said what DG Nasir Jamal did was an inexcusable act and now a proper inquiry would be held against him under the Government Servants Efficiency and Discipline Rules 1973 to find out why he did and what he did.

Explaining the background of the episode, she said that during a briefing of the Press Council of Pakistan, when she assumed the charge of the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, she had expressed the opinion that with a view to facilitate the media and resolving their difficulties concerning their dealings with the ministry, the possibility of merging the office of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Press Registrar and Press Council of Pakistan may be considered to make it a one-window operation for the media.

The minister said that the democratic government of PML-N, which had all along stood for independence of media, could not think of any curbs on the media.