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Pakistan has freest media in the world, Fawad tells Stephen Sackur

"Pakistan is probably one of the freest state[s] as far as media is concerned,” the minister claimed.

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Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, has refused to accept that Pakistan has failed to protect its journalists. The minister maintained that journalists are given protection in the country and they enjoy freedom to express their opinions.

During an interview with Stephen Sackur for BBC programme “HARDTalk”, which was released on Friday, the minister, who was even termed as “one of the government’s most robust defender”, gave his utmost to negate the impression that journalists are at any more risk in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world.

When asked by Sackur if he agrees that the cornerstone of any democracy is the protection of freedom of expression and independent journalism, Chaudhry quoted Article 19 of the Constitution that guarantees such protection.

When further pressed to respond to incidences occuring “day after day, month after month” that stand in stark contrast to such freedoms, and that the government is not protecting journalists and freedom of speech, the information minister said he will “obviously contest the claim”.

“Pakistan is probably one of the freest state[s] as far as media is concerned. We have about 43 international media channels, including BBC, here in Pakistan, we have 112 private channels, 258 FM channels, and 1,569 print publications.

“So you can imagine the kind of media we have. The size of the media itself defies your claim,” Chaudhry responded by saying.

While talking about the role of security agencies of Pakistan, the minister made it clear that they do not target any journalist.

He said that “Pakistan’s army respects human rights… they are one of the most civilised armies of the world.”

Read more: Freedom of Speech: PTI government intends to control digital media?

Notably, Syed Talat Hussain, a prominent journalist from Pakistan, has warned the BBC show and its host of legal consequence after the minister mentioned his name and maintained that the journalist was fired from his channel for not being able to maintain ratings.

Talat tweeted: The program “contains gross factual errors that damage, injure & defame my reputation & which the host made no effort to correct. This can and will have legal consequences.”

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