LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi accused certain advisers of the prime minister of causing a rift between the government and the press, advising Imran Khan to “beware” of these elements.
In a statement issued to the press, Elahi — who also heads the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), an ally of the government at the centre and in Punjab, said he had been tasked by Khan to resolve issues between media houses and the government related to the promulgation of Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022.
Among effecting other changes that have rendered the stringent law originally introduced in 2016 by the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) even more so, the ordinance makes online defamation a non-bailable, cognisable offence and increases the prison term to a maximum of five years.
In a letter to the prime minister, Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul-Haque, had suggested that the government withdraw or review the ordinance.
“It is through the media that the government is able to project its image to the public. By pushing forward with these amendments without consulting the relevant stakeholders, in this case, media practitioners, the government will stoke anger and resentment within the journalistic community,” Haque, a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), said.
In his statement, Elahi said freedom of expression was the “beauty of democracy”.
He also expressed concerns over the reported withholding of advertisements for some newspapers and television channels by the government, saying he was clueless as to why the government was “targeting” those media houses.
He said it seemed as if the bar on advertisements was imposed in the context of the ordinance, adding that government advertisements were public money and should not be used to target the press.