March 18th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
In yet another shockingly unsympathetic statement given by a member of this government, Shibli Faraz, Federal Minister for Information, on Wednesday, March 17, remarked that the best journalism was done when there were economic and other difficulties for the media.
The minister was sharply rebuked by journalists over his insensitive remarks made during a seminar on the media crisis in the country.
“I must point out that the best work of a journalist or poet often comes in the time of financial duress or other unfavourable circumstances. There are no ideal circumstances in a society. Every society has its realities and sensitivities,” Faraz told participants of the seminar on Freedom of the Press and Resolution of Media Crisis.
Senior journalists and fellow panelists in the seminar called out the federal minister for his ‘insensitive remarks’.
Responding to the information minister’s remarks, senior journalist and Executive Editor of Voicepk.net, Munizae Jahangir, told the meeting that journalists in the country were doing their job in a hostile environment for the last many years.
“Journalists sitting here have faced bullets, lashes, and sackings but now the situation has reached such an extent, that even the pens and cameras that they use have been snatched away from them,” she said. “The rules of the game have changed so much that journalists have to fight unarmed.”
In his address, Matiullah Jan said the minister’s remarks reminded him of the military dictators in the country.
“The remarks are similar to the military dictators’ Generals Ayub, Zia, and Musharraf telling journalists in a seminar about the importance of speaking the truth before a tyrannical ruler,” he said.
Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, a former journalist and currently Vice-Chancellor of Sargodha University, criticized the federal minister for his inhumane remarks. “The journalists are starving for years and months now, many of whom I know personally. It is shameless and inhumane to make such a statement,” he told participants.
Raza Rabbani, former senate chairman, and PPP leader, also slammed the minister’s statement. “How come a person who has never seen starvation in his life is talking to those who are starving?” he asked. The PPP leader said it was also wrong of the minister to claim that the opposition had shot down a bill relating to the unpaid salaries of journalists and media workers. “The bill in question gave PEMRA supra authority to act against media outlets, that is probably why the opposition rejected it.”