- Media under the PTI
Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s campaign as an opposition leader was widely reported by the media. It would be no exaggeration to claim that media played an important role in bringing his party to power. After coming to power the PTI government has however taken measures to control media. There is a need on the part of the ruling party to realise that while governments come and go, the media continues to remain in place. By curbing the media’s freedom, political parties would themselves be losers in the long run.
What the newly appointed PTV chief said the other day was in line with the PTI’s policy to force media to blindly support the ruling alliance. Mr Naeem Bukhari authoritatively declared a blackout of the opposition on PTV maintaining that being a state-run organization; it would only represent the stance of the government. The argument is totally irrational. PTV is financed through the taxpayers’ money. The opposition therefore has as much right on it as the government. It is like arguing that only the PTI card holders can travel on a train or a PIA plane. While in opposition the PTI had promised to turn PTV into another BBC, which is free to formulate its policies.
The PTI government has gone too far in its attempts to suppress sections of media that have dared to differ with it. The Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief was kept under detention for nearly seven months. Fake cases have been allowed to be registered against a number of journalists. A social media journalist was kidnapped and was released only after the intervention of the IHC. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the government to stop withholding advertisements to a number of newspapers and grant ads without regard for newspapers’ editorial stances. Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has warned that the government’s new rules to regulate social media activity will make it “extremely difficult” for digital companies to operate in Pakistan. Measures taken against free media explain why Pakistan has slid down another three places to reach 145th position out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom index. That this should happen on Mr Khan’s watch should lead him to rethink his government’s policy of media control.