Shujat warns PM against targeting media, usurping freedom of expression
Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at a meeting.–File photo
Former prime minister Chaudhry Shujat Hussain has advised Prime Minister Imran Khan to restore the licence of 24NewsHD TV immediately and clear the dues of media houses so that they can pay their workers on time.
Shujat is the president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), which is a key ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the federal as well as Punjab government. In his letter to PM Khan on Monday, Shujat warned him against targeting the media, curbing the freedom of expression or opening a front against the media. The letter reads:
“Mr Imran Khan,
Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
“I’m writing this letter to you as head of an allied party. Hope you won’t take it as criticism. Rather, anything that is kept before the government for the sake of reformation is not taken as criticism. A gulf instead of an understanding is being created between the government and the media. Those who create such a gulf will lose nothing and only you will be the one at the losing end.
“The media is the fourth pillar of the state and it is vital for this pillar to be strong for stability of the state. A clash with the media is not a wise move in any circumstances. Earlier, I had informed you about the arrest of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, editor-in-chief of Daily Jang, and now I’m writing you a letter on suspension of the licence of 24NewsHD TV. The recent action against 24NewsHD TV has strengthened the impression that the fourth pillar of the state is being targeted; the constitutional right of the freedom of expression is being usurped, while the country is already facing multiple crises.
“When I was the prime minister, the then Information Minister Sheikh Rashid came to me with a summary, recommending that anyone who submits Rs5 million fee should be given licence for a TV channel without any hurdle. I said at that time in my capacity as the prime minister that there was no need for a Rs5 million fee. An MoU should be prepared and any news against the government should be accepted with patience, but there should be no compromise on the national interest. Rather, action should be taken against the TV channel [reporting against the national interest].
“I asked Senator Shibli Faraz, who is the current information minister, a few days ago that you are son of Ahmad Faraz. I hope you will follow into your father’s footsteps because every section of the society respects your father.
“These matters can be resolved amicably. I hope you will ask the information minister to sit with the owners of the TV channels to resolve these issues. Their dues should be cleared so that media workers are paid their salaries. Moreover, the orders to suspend the licence of 24NewsHD TV should be withdrawn immediately so that media workers are saved from going jobless. Upholding the constitution and law is the solution to all problems.
President, Pakistan Muslim League”