Shah Mehmood Qureshi rejects criticism over media freedom

shah mehmoodLONDON — Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Thursday there was “no question of gagging” journalists after being challenged about his country’s record at a media freedom conference in London.

He was questioned about the recent decision to take three Pakistan television channels off air, the arrest of journalists and deepening concerns about censorship.

“Believe you me, there is no question of gagging or controlling media,” he told the conference co-hosted by Britain and Canada.

“That time has gone and with the new social media, the advent of social media, even if you want to gag, you can gag nothing.”

Pakistan ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers.

Global watchdog Reporters Without Borders this week warned that cutting off Abb Takk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies.”

They were taken off air after screening a news conference with opposition leader Maryam Nawaz.

Qureshi said close to 89 private TV channels were operating in Pakistan. “Three of them were taken off, I”m told for 6-8 hours, and now they are functioning again,” he said.

He said the channels had “issues” with the regulatory body, adding: “Those issues have been settled.”

Qureshi was also asked about an interview with ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, now an opposition leader, which was also abruptly taken off the air.

He said Zardari, who is currently facing corruption charges, was not permitted to be interviewed in the way he was, “otherwise he can say what he wants to”. –

Agencies/Photo courtesy: Daily Times

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