November 27, 2021
ISLAMABAD—Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has denounced Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry's statement regarding the recent PFUJ National Convention.
The union said he should refrain from generating fake news to divert public attention from the shrinking civic space for debate, discussion, and dissent.
Reacting to the tweets and statements by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and State Minister Farrukh Habib on holding the Freedom of Media and Freedom of Expression Convention, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi termed such statements as "irresponsible."
The PFUJ leaders said that PFUJ organized the event 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, "No threats by any minister can deter us from pursuing our path to achieve freedom of press and freedom of expression in the country."
PFUJ leadership noted that since the inception of the PTI government, Pakistan is being viewed as a country where "democratic norms and practices" are being compromised. "Pakistan has dropped to its lowest level in the World Press Freedom Index during the last three years. It speaks volumes about the coercive policies of this government towards free media."
The union leaders suggested to the minister that instead of attacking the Media and civil society, he should improve the 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. No nation can move forward without ensuring freedom of press and right of media workers."
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 IT Minister Amin-ul-Haq, whom PFUJ invited to address as speakers at the convention. Besides PTI leadership, leaders from PPP, MQM, PML-Q, JUI, Jamaat-i-Islami, National Party, Awami National Party, BNP 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 two leaders also reminded the information minister that he himself had attended PFUJ's first National Convention held at Marriott Hotel on March 17, 2021. The then Information Minister Shibli Faraz also participated in that convention.
"Despite Fawad Chaudhry's irresponsible statements, PFUJ will continue to organize such open debates and dialogue among the political parties and the civil society to ensure that media is free from any government pressure," the statement said. "We will continue to work with the civil society to achieve our objective of freedom of speech and workers' rights."
Shahzada Zulfiqar and Nasir Zaidi said that PFUJ is 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 engaging 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."
Photo: Twitter (@fawadchaudhry)
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