November 25th, 2021 

STAFF REPORT


LAHORE 

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Thursday denounced the statement of Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry over the recently-held PFUJ National Convention on the Freedom of Media and Freedom of Expression.

The PFUJ said the federal minister should refrain from generating fake news to divert public attention from the shrinking civic space for debate, discussion and dissent.

Responding to the tweets and statements issued by Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and State Minister Farrukh Habib on the holding of the PFUJ Convention, Shahzada Zulfiqar, PFUJ President, and Nasir Zaidi, Secretary General, called their statements “irresponsible”.

The PFUJ leaders said that the event was organized by PFUJ to hold an open debate on the increasing ‘un-announced censorship and curbs on the national media by the PTI government’.

“Holding such open debates is a mandate and responsibility of the civil society,” the PFUJ leaders said, adding that no threats by any minister could deter them from pursuing their path to achieving freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the country.

The PFUJ noted that since the inception of PTI government, Pakistan was being viewed as a country where “democratic norms and practices” were being compromised. “Pakistan has dropped to its lowest level in the World Press Freedom Index during the last three years,” the PFU said. That speaks volumes about the coercive policies of this government towards a free media, the union said.

The PFUJ leadership suggested to the federal minister that instead of attacking the media and civil society, he should improve performance of his ministry.

“Things that should have been done by the Information Ministry like the recently passed Protection of Journalists’ bill are being performed by the Human Rights Ministry,” PFUJ President and Secretary General said. “No nation can move forward without ensuring freedom of Press and right of media workers,” the PFUJ office-bearers said.

Referring to the “baseless accusation” levelled by Fawad Chaudhry that the PFUJ Convention was an ‘anti-government event’, the PFUJ leadership advised the minister to seek ‘proper information’ from the PTI leadership, including Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari and Information Technology Minister Amin-ul-Haq, who were invited by the PFUJ to address as speakers at the convention.

The PFUJ noted that besides PTI leadership, leaders from Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Jaamiat Ulema Islam, Jamaat-i-Islami, National Party, Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party and other political parties were also invited. “It was PTI and MQM that did not attend the Convention while all others were present there,” the PFUJ said.

The PFUJ also reminded the Information Minister that he himself had attended PFUJ’s first National Convention held at Marriott Hotel on March 17, 2021. That convention was also attended by the then Information Minister Shibli Faraz. “Despite Fawad Chaudhry’s irresponsible statements, PFUJ will continue to organise such open debates and dialogue among the political parties and the civil society to ensure that the media is free from any government pressure,” the PFUJ said.

“We will continue to work with the civil society to achieve our objective of freedom of speech and workers’ rights,” the PFUJ leaders said.

Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi said that PFUJ was always open to discussion with all the political parties including the sitting government.

“We never shied in the past from holding talks with any political party and we remain committed to engage with them,” the joint statement said.

“The Information Minister needs to know that we had sat with the government and the Parliament in finalizing the Protection of Journalists and Media Workers Bill besides engaging with the ministers,” the statement concluded.

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