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‘You don’t have free media’: BBC journalist tells Asad Umar who maintains otherwise

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday said that a free media was a fundamental requirement for democracy in Pakistan and that ‘we as democrats have vested interest in free media’.

Umar was talking to BBC’s Stephen Sackur who asked tough questions about Pakistan’s politics.

Sackur asks Umar about allegations for putting ‘restrictions on media’ against PTI. PTI leader says party believes in free media.

The finance minister said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) believes in free media and that as democrats, they have vested interests in free media.

Sackur interrupts Umar and says ‘you don’t have a free media. Journalists are disappearing’. Latter dismisses it.

Asad disagreed and challenged the BBC presenter to name even one Pakistan journalist who had disappeared in the past 3 months (during PTI’s rule) and had faced threats. “I would be happy to know. I would like to help that journalist,” added Umar.

He added that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan believes in a free media and talked about the need to bring accountability into the media and social media platforms to tackle fake news.

“But that (accountability) can not be used as an excuse to gag people’s right to freedom of expression,” he added.

‘All you have to do is watch one evening of Television and you will know how free the media is’: Asad Umar jokingly says

Asad told the presenter to watch one evening of Pakistani television and that he would know how the government is ‘ripped’ by journalists and analysts in talk-shows.

Sackur quotes journalists Ghazi Salahuddin and asks Asad to talk to the latter to know about the shrinking spaces for journalists in Pakistan

Sackur quoted veteran Pakistani journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, who had been active during General Zia’s era, who said “right now is the worst time I have seen for journalists. We get threatening phone calls and undergo self censorship”.


Then the presenter continued that to know the situation of Pakistani media better, Asad should speak to Salahuddin.

‘I’ll be happy to speak to him’, says Umar, but thinks Salahuddin’s ‘memory is starting to fade’

Asad responded that he would be happy to speak to Ghazi Salahuddin. “I have a lot of respect for him, but with due respect, Ghazi Salahuddin has forgotten what happened in Zia’s era. Journalists were jailed, were tortured and there was public flogging. So with all due respect, I think his memory is starting to fade.

On Aasia Bibi case

Umar was also asked about Aasia Bibi’s case. He said the government believes in rule of law, court decided Aasia Bibi’s case and the PTI govt stood by it. Those who created law and order situation are facing accountability.

Here is the excerpt from the interview

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