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Who is promoting narrative of suppression of freedom of expression in Pakistan?

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain believes that the narrative of a gag on freedom of expression in Pakistan was being promoted under a conspiracy.

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Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday said the narrative of a gag on freedom of expression in Pakistan was being promoted under a conspiracy.

The minister, in a tweet, said a specific group was running the propaganda campaign to bring Pakistan into the ambit of the Financial Action Task Force and other such regulatory networks.

Some ”fake groups” from abroad first started disseminating ”fake news”, and then a ”certain indigenous gang” in Pakistan spread it without having any knowledge about the contents, he added.

Fawad’s reaction comes a day after Paris-based Reporters Without Borders published a report titled: “Press freedom predators gallery — old tyrants, two women and a European”.

According to the group, the “cases of brazen censorship are legion since Khan became prime minister” following parliamentary elections in 2018. It said that during Khan’s rule, the distribution of newspapers was interrupted, media outlets were threatened with withdrawal of advertising and TV channel signals were jammed.

‘Pakistan has freest media in the world’

During an interview with Stephen Sackur for BBC programme “HARDTalk”, 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 occurring “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”.

When talking about freedom of expression in Pakistan, he said that “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.

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

“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 and the freedom of expression in Pakistan, the minister made it clear that they do not target any journalist.

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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