Prime Minister Imran Khan and his advisors have long asserted that Pakistan’s media is more free than that of Western countries and has repeatedly rejected assertions to the contrary. In 2021, the international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), listed him as one of the world’s 37 worst rulers when it comes to press freedom.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has repeatedly attacked the media and especially any organizations that have tried to remain objective. According to Chaudhry, “the right to freedom of speech is being abused to peddle disinformation, and the government “only has a problem with fake news and not with genuine news”.”
As an editorial in Dawn stated, “This is a disingenuous stance: while ‘fake news’ certainly exists, the PTI has also weaponised the term to try and discredit those sections of the media that believe in their duty to inform the public without fear or favour and hold the government and other institutions accountable. It is highly unseemly for a federal minister — of information, no less — to lead a partisan attack on the integrity of certain news organisations.”
Finally, as the editorial notes, “Combating anti-Pakistan ‘conspiracies’ should not mean stifling its media. Indeed, a vibrant press is the sign of a state confident in its ability to govern and stand up to attacks against it. Moreover, the government, if it bulldozes the PMDA legislation through despite the media’s protests, may want to consider the reaction from those sections of the global community that take press freedom very seriously. Is stamping out all dissent worth inviting international censure?”