Govt to set up media regulatory authority, says minister

Published August 16, 2021
In this file photo, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Despite resistance from the opposition parties and representatives of media organisations, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday again expressed the government’s desire to set up an authority in to regulate mainstream as well as social media the country.

“We need to think over fake news, sectarian news and hate material. We are setting up Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA). Digital media is our future,” said the minister while talking to the representatives of digital media platforms.

According to the minister, it is in the public interest that digital media is regulated to control “abusive, harmful and hateful content”.

Mr Chaudhry said that today they were facing a challenge to differentiate between genuine and fake news reports. He said former US president Barack Obama had stated in 2013 that the biggest challenge for the governments was to handle the flow of disinformation.

He said more and more people were shifting towards digital media and soon the country’s media landscape would be changed.

The minister said a recent report of the ministry’s digital media wing had highlighted a hybrid war being faced by Pakistan.

“The fifth generation war and hybrid war are not a philosophy, rather they are in front of us as a reality,” said the minister.

He recalled that when the government had launched a crackdown on the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Karachi, thousands of tweets were uploaded in just three hours stating that a civil war had started in the city. He alleged that India was behind all these tweets. He also alleged that India was supporting anti-state narrative in Pakistan, adding that there were many tweets from India about one sect.

“The anti-Pakistan elements in India have the biggest hand behind the sectarian strife in Pakistan,” the minister asserted.

Mr Chaudhry stated that soon after becoming the information minister, he had predicted that digital media would replace formal media for which he had to face criticism.

In 2018, he said, he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance, stating that the way advertising was moving forward, it would be around Rs12 billion in digital media over the next five years. In 2018, it was Rs4 billion and, in just three years, it had reached Rs25 billion, he said.

The minister revealed that Google and Facebook were collecting about Rs7 billion from Pakistan in terms of advertisements. In the next two to three years, he said, formal media advertising would lag behind, while digital advertising would move forward.

“We need to keep an eye on digital advertising and it is very important to regulate it,” Mr Chaudhry said.

The minister said the US was the world’s only superpower because it had a peaceful neighbourhood. On the other hand, he said, Pakistan had India on one side and Afghanistan on the other. Because of this situation, the region was facing some problems for which they would have to take decisions while keeping in mind the ground realities.

APP adds: The minister said the total number of newspapers approved by the ABC in Pakistan was 1,672 out of which 800 were dummies. He said that at present 183 million mobile Sims had been issued and safely only 100 million to 120m mobile phone users were in the country.

The minister said that 98 million mobile users were on 3G and 4G services with a broadband depth of 100m. He said WhatsApp users in the country were 65m, YouTube users over 56m, Facebook users 37m, Tiktok users 20m and Twitter users over five million.

Published in Dawn, August 16h, 2021

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