Thursday, October 14, 2004

Pakistani Information minister warns newspapers

PESHAWAR (Pakistan)

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has warned media to avoid portraying terrorists as heroes of Islam and Pakistan, saying it went against national interests.Briefing newsmen at the press club on October 12, Minister said harbouring terrorist groups in the country was a crime, which could not be condoned, as we are a part of the international anti-terrorist movement. He warned the news media if someone portrayed terrorist as heroes, he would be tried under the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2001, which stated: "A person commits an offence if he prints, publishes or disseminates any material, whether by audio or video cassettes or by written, photographic, electronic, digital, wall chalking or any other method, which incites hatred." The media has strongly reacted against the warning of the Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister. In an immediate reaction the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) has strongly protested against the statement of the Federal Information Minister.A CPNE spokesman pointed out that Pakistani newspapers perform their professional obligations and patriotism by providing correct information and news to the masses. He expressed concern over the ban threat to the newspapers and other media organisations on part of the minister and pointed out, that it was the prime responsibility of the newspapers to inform the masses of the events happening within the country.CPNE said if the government thinks its image is being tarnished, it should try to better its governance rather than blaming the media or restraining it to cover the events. It shows the government in fact wanted to adopt revengeful measures against these newspapers criticizing its performance. The same news items were also being published and aired by the foreign media organisations. The spokesman said the non-publication of national news items in Pakistani newspapers would not only tarnish the image of the print media and its credibility but also would restrict the ‘right to know’ on part of the masses which is a violation of the basic human rights inscribed in Article 19 of the Constitution. The CPNE spokesman reiterated the resolve that the CPNE would combat all steps aimed at suppressing the freedom of press as any curbs on the freedom of press or freedom of the expression would ultimately result in restricting the political, social, industrial, cultural and moral growth of the society.