Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday his government was the first in Pakistan’s history to give “complete independence” to the media.
Addressing the launching ceremony of the Digital Media Development Programme in Islamabad, the premier said 70 per cent of the news content published or broadcast in the PTI-led government’s tenure so far had been “against us”.
“I challenge that there has never been a government in Pakistan’s history [like this] that left the media completely unrestrained,” he said, adding that the independence allowed to the press could easily be gauged by evaluating “how many of the last three years’ news programmes were pro and how many were anti-government”.
“I guarantee you that 70pc of the programmes and angling in major newspapers were against us … There has never been the kind of slander against ministers and the prime minister even in the biggest democracies as has been done here. When our Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister was elected, three major newspapers claimed he (AJK PM) was nominated because of magic.
“What can be bigger slander than this?” he questioned.
If those news stories had been published elsewhere, “I can guarantee I would have gotten millions of dollars in damages which I would have sent to my charity,” the premier said.
The premier said the PTI government was not “affected” by a free judiciary and free media because it was not corrupt or breaking any laws. However, the government had “problems” with fake news and propaganda, he added.
Referring to the news stories on the AJK PM, he questioned the impact if people abroad had read such “propaganda that the PM took out the astrological chart and then nominated [AJK PM]”, adding that they were also an “insult to a grassroots politician having 30 years of experience”.
“This is a very degrading thing for the country,” he emphasised.
Addressing the participants at the ceremony, Prime Minister Imran said their focus should be on telling the truth and promoting the vision for the country.
Terming the programme an “opportunity for innovation” for them, he urged them to think of new ideas all the time.
At the outset of his speech, the premier advised the participants to be ambitious and set higher goals, giving examples from his own career.
He asked the participants to promote the vision of turning Pakistan into an ideal Islamic state, which was based foremost on self-respect. He said Pakistan had bent to powerful countries in the past but was now heading towards attaining self-respect.
“Secondly, there is [concern for] humanity in an Islamic state,” the premier said, citing the example of the universal health coverage programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through which a deserving family could avail medical treatment of up to Rs1 million at any hospital.
“Even developed countries do not have universal health coverage. We have started on the journey to making Pakistan a welfare state in which we want to lift up the poor.”
In addition to this, the government had also started building panagahs (shelter homes) to provide food and lodging to labourers, he recalled.
Prime Minister Imran emphasised that a country which did not have rule of law could not succeed, adding that justice could only be ensured if there was merit.
“No cousin or friend of Imran Khan is [appointed] on a high post. There is merit in Pakistan and you will see its effect slowly.” In an apparent reference to the opposition, he said: “All the noise here in three years is because we are telling the powerful that they are also answerable.”
“We will not become a great nation until we have these three things: self-respect, concern for humanity and rule of law,” he emphasised.
The Digital Media Wing of the information ministry described the Digital Media Development Programme as a “flagship initiative” in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran.
Launched in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, the initiative will focus on “the development and growth of the digital media ecosystem of Pakistan”, according to the DMW.
In a tweet, UNDP Pakistan said it was “proud to support” the government programme, which it noted will “empower the youth of Pakistan in enhancing their digital skills and gaining employment opportunities”.