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Imran Khan defends anti-media law in address to nation

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the nation, defended the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) Ordinance.

He said, “we brought this law because obscene content is disseminated on social media. Doctored photos are being shared online. Even the country’s prime minister is not spared.”

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has challenged before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) the definition of ‘journalist’ as well as Section 6 of the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act, 2021.

Khan further said that derogatory remarks were made against Minister Muard Saeed and the latter plans to take legal action against the same in the UK.

The prime minister went on to say that it is being stated that press freedom is under attack, but it was PML-N that introduced PECA in 2016. “The PTI government has only amended it,” he said, adding that 70 percent of news on the media is against the ruling party.

Further, the PM said that Jang Group reported that Shaukat Khanum’s money is being used by PTI, which was a false report.

Prices reduced

PM Imran Khan announced that the price of petrol would be cut by Rs10 per litre and the price of electricity would be reduced by Rs 5 per unit. He said that he was given a summary by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and they wanted him to increase the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs10 due to the rise in the price in global markets. “Today I want to tell you this good news that we will decrease the prices instead of increasing them,” he said.
He announced that petrol and electricity prices would not be increased until the next budget.

Talking about his visit to Russia, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the global situation is rapidly changing and it will impact Pakistan. He then said that the country’s foreign policy must be independent. “Growing up, I was always made to realise that I was lucky to have been born in a foreign country. Therefore, I always wanted Pakistan’s foreign policy to be free. This means that the country makes foreign policy for its nation instead of adopt an approach that harms the country,” he said.

PM Khan added that when Pakistan participated in America’s war on terror, the country had nothing to do with it. “I had been saying from day one that we should not have taken part in it. But we were bombed by the US. More than 400 drone attacks were carried out in Pakistan by our own ally,” he said.

Khan added that the previous governments told the US that they do not mind collateral damage. “Those who have wealth abroad will not put the country first,” he said.

The PM also announced that Pakistan will import gas from Russia, which he said was decided during his visit to the country last week.

Earlier, in a letter to Prime Minister, Federal Minister for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haque suggested that a consultation with civil society and media should be undertaken and asked for the controversial amendment to either be withdrawn or reviewed, in light of the massive outcry coming from all stakeholders.

Mr Haque belongs to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — an ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the centre. He, along with fellow MQM leader and federal law minister, Dr Farogh Naseem, played a leading role in coming up with the contentious amendments to Peca.

On Sunday, when the law minister was vehemently defending the government’s amendment to Peca during a news conference in Karachi, his party’s convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had criticised the move, stating that such laws would lead to problems for the government itself.

The minister has written to the PM, who is currently on an official tour to Russia, despite the fact that a summary regarding the controversial ordinance was circulated among cabinet members for approval last week and was signed by the secretary of his own ministry.

“The media community across the board is deeply concerned and restless about the latest amendments to Peca promulgated through an ordinance. The announcement of the amendments has drawn widespread condemnation and ire of media bodies and the journalistic community as a whole. Their view is that the amendments were drafted without constructive consultation with the relevant stakeholders,” Mr Haque wrote in the letter

Journalists across the country are expressing outrage over a proposed set of regulations they warn will further curtail press freedom and dramatically bolster the powers of a government that is already seen as imposing censorship to control the media and free speech.

The government-proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) would combine the functions of several federal and provincial agencies currently regulating the print, electronic, and digital media.

Journalists, however, maintain there are ulterior motives behind the proposal, first floated in May with the purported aim of streamlining media regulations.

“If implemented, this will prove an open-air jail for journalists,” said journalist and anchor Hamid Mir.

Mir said he thinks Pakistan will resemble China and Iran with such media laws.

“We want to make it clear that there can’t be any talks over the PDMA bill or even making another umbrella body or authority under any other name,” said a September 16 statement by Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi, leaders of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi filed the writ petition in the Islamabad High Court through Journalists’ Defence Committee (JDC) of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC).

After hearing arguments of counsel Aftab Alam, Babar Hayat and Umar Gillani, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued notices to the federal ministry of information and broadcasting and federal ministry of human rights as well as attorney general to respond to the petition at next hearing.

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