On World Press Freedom Day, PM Imran warns against fake news

Published May 3, 2019
As the world marks World Press Freedom Day, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday warned against fake news. — Photo courtesy Imran Khan Instagram
As the world marks World Press Freedom Day, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday warned against fake news. — Photo courtesy Imran Khan Instagram

Prime Minister Imran Khan on World Press Freedom Day tweeted a verse from the Holy Quran in what seemed to be a warning against the dissemination of fake news.

Prime Minister Imran shared a verse which translates as: "And mix not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know (the truth)."

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government has taken an active and aggressive stance against cracking down on suspected fake news during its eight months in power, even creating a Fake News Buster Twitter account to share stories it claims are 'fake'.

Some of the news reports that the Fake News Buster has dismissed as fake have included one on a major cabinet reshuffle including then finance minister Asad Umar, the transfer of the Islamabad IGP after a run-in with minister Azam Swati, and a report on PTI operating 18 undeclared bank accounts, raising questions over the account's accuracy in highlighting such reports.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cautioned in his message that "new tools and tactics are being tested to gag the media in developing democracies", while noting that the dangers to press freedom in developing countries are mounting.

Bilawal said that a "policy of carrot and stick by government powers has been let loose at different tiers of media houses and professionals in these countries", adding that Pakistan was no exception.

Read: Editorial: In Pakistan, quality of press freedom cannot just be gauged by journalists' murders

The PPP chairman said that a vibrant and free media is necessary for a progressive democracy. He added that the PPP, along with "bona fide journalists and media persons", would resist every kind of intimidation against the freedom of the press and media in Pakistan.

He claimed that the PPP had "thrown away the draconian press and publication laws imposed by dictatorial regimes and would continue to act as an umbrella for press freedoms in the country despite facing the worst kind of victimisation under different pretexts".

Bilawal said that journalists, as well as PPP leaders and workers, had fought "shoulder to shoulder against the dictators and anti-democratic forces during last five decades."

In a video message shared on Twitter, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said that a "free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights," adding that no democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information.

Guterres said that a free press was the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, for holding leaders accountable and for "speaking truth to power".

The UN chief noted that the focus of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day was election season in different countries.

"Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives," the UN chief said.

"While technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred," Guterres said.

He noted that civic spaces were shrinking around the globe at an alarming rate"and that anti-media rhetoric was on the rise, along with violence and harassment against journalists, including women.

"I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity," Guterres said while noting that as per Unesco, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018 while hundreds were imprisoned.

"When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price," the UN secretary general said adding: "On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts helped us to build a better world for all."

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