ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Friday that they had drafted a law on ‘fake news’ and it had been handed over to the federal cabinet for approval.
The statement comes amid the government’s plans to set up a media regulatory authority to improve professional standards of the news industry by discouraging ‘fake news.’
The proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority, which would oversee films and monitor electronic, print and digital media, including Web TV, over-the-top content platforms and news websites, has rattled journalists and rights advocates, who fear it could be used to stifle dissent and free speech and institutionalize censorship.
But Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government appears to be unfazed by the opposition to its plans.
“[I] have been saying this since 2018 that the country cannot move forward without fundamental political reforms,” Hussain said in a Twitter post.
“Media and judicial reforms are a must,” he added.
In August, Hussain had said the PMDA would be able to impose fines of up to Rs250 million, or roughly $1.5 million, on Pakistani media outlets that violate rules. But the government hadn’t included the provision of imprisonment in the new proposed law, he had said.
Speaking at a discussion on ‘misinformation’ at the Arab News Pakistan Editors and Reporters conference in Islamabad last week, Hussain said it was important to combine freedom of expression with the idea of greater social responsibility.
Quoting the former US president Barack Obama, he maintained that managing the flow of information had become the biggest challenge for modern governments around the world.
He observed that ‘fake news’ was not only used by competing political factions, but also the rival countries engaging in information warfare.