LAHORE: A prominent journalist has criticised the National Accountability Bureau’s move to seek information from the Punjab government about the quantum of advertisements placed in different newspapers, terming it an attack on press freedom and a tactic to silence voices of dissent against the watchdog.

In a letter addressed to the Director General of Public Relations (DGPR), Punjab, on July 16, the National Accountability Bureau sought information under section 27 of the NAB Ordinance 1999 about advertisements given by the provincial government to newspapers, especially daily Pakistan.

Mujeebur Rehman Shami, the chief editor of the Urdu daily published from Lahore and Multan, said in a statement on Sunday that the media, like the judiciary and the armed forces, should be out of bounds for the bureau to “save the constitutional right to freedom of expression”.

Mr Shami said he would take the issue to the higher judiciary, as well as the bodies representing media owners and editors, to thrash out a joint stance “to foil moves aimed at intimidating the media into submission”.

He claimed that NAB authorities had been urging him to desist from criticising the bureau’s actions. “However, I have always asked them to provide the watchdog’s version to ensure an even-handed coverage.”

NAB has asked the DGPR to provide a detailed report, along with attested copies of documents pertaining to the distribution of advertisement from 2007 to date, details of SPL advertisements released directly along with details of SPL dues deducted during the period. Complete details of payments made to daily Pakistan, the paper owned by Mr Shami, and rates offered to the paper have also been sought by NAB.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2019

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