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Newly ruling collation partners minister for Information Mariyum Aurangzeb speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on April 19, 2022. - Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sprang no big surprises in naming his new cabinet Tuesday, doling out key portfolios to officials from the two parties that combined to oust Imran Khan after weeks of political crisis. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: The new government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to close down the infamous Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) and Digital Media Wing (DMW). He said the regulatory bodies had been meant to gag freedom of expression and independent media.

The new information minister of the country, Marriam Aurangzeb, while addressing her first press conference after taking oath, said the sole purpose of the digital media cell was character assassination of dissenters whether in politics or media or the national institutions. Even Youtubers and V-loggers were targeted through these cells for criticising the Imran Khan government’s policies.

“We have decided to abolish that infamous cell which did nothing but hurl abuses at political opponents,” said Aurangzeb.

Three officers of the Information Ministry, whose had been moved to the DMW, have been sent back to their original positions in the cyber wing while 24 persons taken on contract are missing, she further said.

In her maiden press conference, Aurangzeb said journalists and media persons would no longer be hounded. They will not be coerced or forced into doing anything against their will. The days of abuse, bullying, persecution, kidnapping and torture are over, she said.

The regime of suppression and oppression no longer exists, said Aurangzeb.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has been out of power for almost four years, said she, adding that during this time media houses and workers had gone through bad times. She said her government would no longer let that continue.

Attacks on journalists unacceptable

She strongly condemned protests in front of the homes of senior journalists, including Hamid Mir and Asma Sherazi, and attacks on Asad Toor and Absar Alam.

She also mentioned kidnapping and torture of a well-known V-logger Matiullah Jan and said PM Shehbaz’ government would not only ensure safety and protection of journalists but would also take up the matter relating to their financial conditions with their employers.

She said the country already has a regulator, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), and there will be no other regulatory body for electronic media except PEMRA.

“We will not tolerate any law that puts restrictions on the freedom of expression or deprives citizens of their constitutional rights.”

She also welcomed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) recent verdict of setting aside PECA Ordinance 2016 and called it a Draconian Law. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), misusing the PECA Ordinance, abducted a senior journalist from Islamabad - Mohsin Baig - and tortured him, she said.