ISLAMABAD: The government wants to regulate social media in order to ensure it is not used by hidden forces to destabilise the country and to distort the nation’s ideology, two federal ministers told a conference on Thursday.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi dwelt at length on foreign influence in internal affairs of the country and the use of social media as the key tool for this purpose.

The conference, with the theme “National Security, Nation Building and Mass Media”, was organised by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS).

“The media has to play its role when it comes to national security,” Mr Afridi said.

He stressed that safeguarding national security was not only a responsibility of soldiers manning the borders but also that of the entire nation.

The minister disapproved of society’s fixation with the Western way of life, wondering to what extent “will we go to please the Goras” (people of the West).

He said it was regrettable that the issue of Aasia Bibi got adequate media coverage, but that of Dr Aafia Siddiqui was going by default.

Mr Afridi wondered why the media “highlights issues that create fissures” in society, complaining that it never spoke about the treatment of minorities in India.

The minister contended that the Western media always tried to gloss over the darker side of that society.

“Disinformation is being spread about me and the government, especially since I started taking initiatives against corrupt elements,” Mr Afridi said.

Turning to Afghanistan, he said India had strengthened its influence there, attributing the delay by Kabul in handing over the body of SP Tahir Dawar to New Delhi’s sway over the former.

Mr Afridi took a swipe at international NGOs operating in the country, asserting that some of them worked against “our traditions and beliefs”.

“Pakistan will no longer be run to please others’ vision,” he said.

He called for improving coordination between the civilian and military leaderships.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government wanted to regulate social media, but conceded that it would not be possible without cooperation from operators like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

He said the government was looking into a proposal to merge all the three media-related regulatory bodies into a single umbrella authority.

At the same time, he cautioned that the media industry and students needed to be mindful of technological advancements taking place.

“We need to determine whether there is enough demand in the market for thousands of media graduates to be produced by universities across the country,” Fawad Chaudhary said.

“It is not the government’s job to support media houses.”

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2018

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