ISLAMABAD: The new government has decided to close down the Digital Media Wing (DMW) established by the previous PTI government to disseminate official information at social media platforms.

The move has divided sector specialists with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) welcoming it, saying the decision to “disband the problematic Digital Media Wing is welcomed”.

The HRCP has been opposing the DMW, saying it was pursuing the agenda of the PTI against its political opponents and there were allegations that state resources were being used to forward the party agenda, including trolling of mediapersons.

At her first press conference after assuming charge as minister for information and broadcasting on Tuesday, Marriyum Aurangzeb, said the PTI-established DMW was composed of its workers and targeting the opposition and national institutions.

Minister says wing composed of PTI workers, targeting opposition, national institutions

“This wing has been abolished because it was not even needed from the start as the cyber wing already existed in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” she said.

“Three government employees posted to the DMW are being transferred to the cyber wing,” she added.

However, a social media rights activist lauded the decision to shift the responsibilities of the DMW to the cyber wing under the information ministry and said it would enhance checks on any misuse of the digital media platforms by state entities.

“Strengthening the already existing cyber wing of the ministry is a good idea as this way institutions will remain intact even when governments come and go. Besides, bureaucracy will never indulge in any political point scoring,” said Nighat Dad, the executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation.

However, she said the cyber wing had to be more innovative and up-to-date with the changing trends and keep pace with offices like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to maintain a good image of Pakistan abroad.

The DMW was established in 2018 by the PTI soon after it came to power. It was the reincarnation of the Social Media Wing working under the Press Information Department (PID).

While Imran Ghazali, former general manager DMW, resigned soon after Shehbaz Sharif became the prime minister, it has been decided that around 16 other employees of the DMW, whose contract was set to expire in August this year, will be laid off.

The cyber wing has been established in the information ministry to circulate government’s achievements and publicise its direction plan at social media platforms.

However, Asad Baig, the executive director of Media Matter for Democracy, said shutting down any institution was never a good option and the government would realise sooner or later that it was not a good decision.

“It would have been better to improve and streamline the DMW, and there was also a need to have a digitally literate set-up at the official level,” Mr Baig said, adding that, “the fact is that Pakistan has a small media and that too dominated by Urdu medium, and there are few outlets in English. So the outward communication of the country is limited and digital media is the only way to fill this gap.”

He said the DMW was an entity of the state and should have continued to operate like any other functionary and, if needed, there could be reforms in it.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2022

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