Govt imposed curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders

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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to impose curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders. “The prime minister has given a task to the law minister to draft a law to curb media coverage of convicts and absconders,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

The meeting was informed that Maryam Nawaz had filed an application with the interior ministry, seeking removal of her name from the no-fly list so that she could see her ailing father Nawaz Sharif in London and take care of him.

“Unfortunately, those convicts and absconders who looted public money are glorified in the media as they frequently come on TV and claim to be innocent and criticise the government and its policies,” Dr Awan said.

Although the PM’s adviser did not name any of the convicts or absconders against whom the new law was being considered, it is believed that she was talking about former prime minister Sharif, his daughter Maryam, sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar. “If they are innocent, why do they take the benefit of media and do not come to the country to face their cases,” she said without naming anyone.

In reply to a question, Dr Awan said it was the desire of the prime minister that the proposed law placing curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders be applied across the board. “The law minister will sit with Pemra [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] officials to finalise a draft of the law,” she added.

Asked how the government would create harmony with the opposition for the passage of over 150 pending bills in parliament if it [the government] continues to criticise and grill opposition leaders, she said the government had tried its best to appease the opposition and met all their demands, but they were not ready to cooperate with the former.

“On the opposition’s demand we have introduced a bunch of bills in the National Assembly that had been passed through ordinances by the president. Similarly, production orders for detained opposition lawmakers were also issued,” she added.

Referring to the remarks made by PML-N leader Khawaja Asif in the National Assembly that “opposition will not cooperate with the government” because he believed the government was behind a recent protest outside the residence of Nawaz Sharif in London, Ms Awan said that on the one hand Mr Asif was advocating for freedom of expression and, on the other, he and other PML-N leaders were offended by a “peaceful protest” in London.

Talking about the recent meeting of PML-N leaders in London, she said: “All absconders gathered in London to decide what kind of legislation should be made in Pakistan.” She said investigative journalists should probe as to who had borne the expenses of boarding and lodging of PML-N leaders.

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