Freedom of expression: Official responsible for press law alarm identified -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Freedom of expression: Official responsible for press law alarm identified

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Arangzeb revealed on Tuesday a senior officer had been found responsible for a recent controversy about proposed amendments to the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance to regulate the print media.

Sharing the outcome of a fact-finding inquiry into the matter, she said at a news conference that Internal Publicity Wing Director-General Nasir Jamal had been found guilty of distorting facts and giving instructions to the chairman of the Press Council of Pakistan.

“Mr Nasir Jamal was deliberately distorting the facts and making efforts to create a rift between the government and media,” she said.

The minister said the official had been removed from his posit and a fast-track inquiry would be initiated against him, whose findings would also be made public.

She said the initial report showed that he was the ‘only’ person involved in the matter, “however, it has yet to be figured out why he did this and what were his motives behind doing this”. He was holding meetings with the council’s chairman at a personal level and giving him instructions.

The minister said the official had “committed a criminal offence” and would face disciplinary action in accordance with the law.

She said the government believed in the freedom of expression and could not even think of introducing any anti-press law to curb it.

The proposed legislation caused uproar among journalists and members of the civil society over attempts by the government to infringe upon the freedom of the press. It suggested disbanding the Press Council and replacing it with a Pakistan media regulatory authority with jurisdiction across the country.

In the wake of a strong reaction from journalists and civil society organisations, the information ministry distanced itself from the proposed bill.

“It came to the notice of the minister of state, and the secretary, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, that the subject news item was published in the national press on Sunday and it was also subsequently discussed in various TV talk shows the same evening, whereas neither the minister of state nor the secretary was aware of any such proposal,” a statement by the ministry said.

Later, the ministry appointed External Publicity Wing Director-General Shafqat Jalil as inquiry officer to conduct the fact-finding probe into the matter.

The minister clarified that no law could be enacted without the prior approval of the law ministry. “In a democratic society, no law can be made without taking into confidence all the stakeholders,” she said.

She told reporters that the government was currently working on two laws related to access to information and safety and security of journalists. “Protecting the rights of journalists is the top priority of the democratic government,” she said.

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