Fawad Chaudhry’s rash comments in HARDtalk anger journalists

ISLAMABAD—Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry’s comments regarding prominent journalist Syed Talat Hussain and attacks on journalists has angered the journalist community.

The minister appeared in the BBC’s HARDtalk on Friday, interviewed by Stephen Sackur. The interviewer asked him about the current situation related to local and foreign media, media operations, and press freedom under the Imran Khan–led PTI government.

Chaudhry was also asked about the closure of the popular TV talk show, which Talat Hussain hosted on Geo News. However, the minister denied the perception that some institutions’ state pressure and alleged direct interference led to off-airing Hussain.

Ironically, the information minister remarked that he did not consider Hussain, a journalist. According to him, his show was stopped by the channel’s management due to low ratings. It had nothing to do with the PTI government.

Television presenter, Mansoor Ali Khan, supported Hussain on his YouTube channel. Debunking the minister’s claims, he said that Hussain’s Naya Pakistan show had excellent ratings for two years. The average rating of his show never fell from the second position among all primetime shows. “Most of the time, Naya Pakistan enjoyed No. 1 rating,” Khan claimed.

On Saturday, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned the minister for his irresponsible comments. President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi acknowledged that Hussain was a well-reputed journalist who commands immense respect among the fraternity. “His objectivity in journalism has been praised by political parties and government circles alike. He has been an editor of a newspaper, a senior-most columnist, and a widely watched TV anchor with millions of readers and viewers. It is highly disappointing to see a sitting minister declaring that Talat Hussain is not a journalist at all,” PFUJ said.

It said the minister’s highly irresponsible comment terming the attacks on journalists ‘usual’ has dented the government’s reputation, besides reflecting its lack of seriousness in preventing attacks on media persons. “If the government ministers themselves describe such attacks as usual, then who will protect media persons,” PFUJ asked.

Murtaza Solangi, Executive Editor Naya Daur Media and a former director-general of Radio Pakistan had this to say on Twitter: “Fawad Chaudhry tells BBC that Talat Hussain is not a journalist because he is not on TV and he went off TV screen before Imran. So you are not a journalist if you are not on TV!”

Many journalists have also expressed solidarity with Hussain, demanding the federal minister apologize immediately.

Source: Journalism Pakistan

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