RAWALPINDI: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary on Wednesday said previous court decisions and state polices led to sour relations with information technology companies in the country.

Addressing a two-day International Media Conference at the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), the minister said the courts, particularly those in 2014, had dealt a blow to the country’s relations with digital and technology companies and hindered the progress of the industry in Pakistan.

“I personally requested the judges in meetings with them not to hear cases related to digital media,” he said.

The Pakistan Telecom­munication Authority (PTA) decision to ban TikTok earlier last year also caused further damage to these relations, he said, adding that the “ban culture” had affected every sector in the country.

The minister said investment would not come to the country unless state policies were changed.

“Digital media has its pros, there are many cons too. The social integration of media has revolutionised our lives but let’s not forget the associated perils like misinformation, lack of guidance, and information leakage,” he warned.

He said the state could not regulate each and everything: let the people decide who would govern the country or what to do for economic independence.

He also criticised the regulations to undermine students’ potential on different pretexts and said: “Why do we try to parent every child?”

He said children should be free to choose career for themselves. “In the past people used to say a person excels in life if they study hard. But things have changed now. You will find a 20-year-old youngster a billionaire,” he said.He said the country did not have an electric vehicles (EV) policy when he assumed his ministry but it was introduced. However, he pointed out, once EV overcame combustion engines in Pakistan, car mechanics might become redundant or face unemployment.

Mr Chaudhary said the Covid-19 outbreak had a significant impact on global health, economy, and on society as a whole. Various measures were being taken by the Pakistani government to respond to the pandemic, he said, adding that digital media in this regard was playing a pivotal role.

FJWU Vice Chancellor Dr Saima Hamid said Fatima Jinnah Women University, which is the first-ever women university in Pakistan, organised the conference to provide young energetic and dynamic Pakistani females a platform to network and excel in academic research.

“Provision of international exposure is what we envision and that is what my faculty is working on tirelessly to ensure,” she said. Investment in girls’ education and research could contribute tremendously in the country’s development, she added.

She announced that the conference would follow a nine-day international doctoral school, which would be organised in collaboration with the Association of Media and Communication Academic Professionals, Punjab Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and International Association for Media and Communication Research.

She said: “A total of 13 international scholars and a diverse team of academicians and media experts will provide support to research scholars in Pakistan.”

The first day of the conference also had a plenary session titled “Public health challenges in the new normal: role of digital media”, which was moderated by the vice chancellor, besides the session on “Trans-disciplinary approach in digital media ecologies for the challenges faced by humanity”.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2021

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