Curbs on coverage of convicts, absconders may 'return to haunt govt', warns HRCP

December 12, 2019

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Picture shows newspapers at a roadside stall. — AFP/File
Picture shows newspapers at a roadside stall. — AFP/File

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday expressed concern over the federal cabinet's proposal to curb media coverage of convicts and absconders, warning that the move "may eventually return to haunt the government"

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while chairing a federal cabinet meeting, had directed the law minister to draft laws to impose restrictions on media's coverage of convicts and absconders.

Saying that it was "alarmed" by the decision, the commission in a series of tweets posted today, termed the move as "inherently biased".

"Given Pakistan's history of political victimisation, this move is inherently biased," HRCP said.

"Such curbs on the media and the government's political rivals may eventually return to haunt the government. No democracy can function effectively without an independent media."

While briefing the media on a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Firdous Ashiq Awan, the premier's aide on information and broadcasting, said: "Unfortunately, those convicts and absconders who looted public money are glorified in the media as they frequently come on TV, and claim to be innocent and criticise the government and its policies."

Although the PM’s adviser did not name any of the convicts or absconders against whom the new law was being considered, it is believed that she was talking about former prime minister Sharif, his daughter Maryam, sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

"If they are innocent, why do they take the benefit of media and do not come to the country to face their cases," she said without naming anyone.

In reply to a question, Awan said it was the desire of the prime minister that the proposed law placing curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders be applied across the board.

"The law minister will sit with Pemra [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] officials to finalise a draft of the law," she added.