–Canadian activist lashes out at FM for Pakistani govt’s alleged involvement in ‘censoring’ Twitter accounts
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi came under fierce criticism by a Canadian social media activist during “Defend Media Freedom” conference in London, reportedly boycotted by several journalists, as evident from the empty chairs, in a protest against increasing censorship in Pakistan.
The exchange between FM Qureshi and Levant took place when the latter confronted Qureshi over the Pakistan government’s involvement in censoring the tweets of users who are based in America and Canada.
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) July 11, 2019
“You should be embarrassed to invite a censor like this,” Levant told the panel, adding, “Who the hell are you to censor me in Canada?”
Qureshi responded that he had nothing to do with the censorship and that media was strong and independent in the country.
Baffled, Qureshi asked how was he personally responsible? The journalist retorted that the Pakistani government is [ which he is a part of].
Qureshi’s presence at the conference was not popular, as illustrated by the rows of empty seats as a result of people boycotting his appearance.
In the major international conference “Defend Media Freedom” in London today, journalists boycott Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s session as empty chairs welcome him. pic.twitter.com/XkPGvIi4HU
— Saima Farooq (@SaimaFarooq) July 11, 2019
During the penal discussion, the foreign minister claimed media in Pakistan was ‘independent and powerful’ and that there were 89 TV channels in the country. He said that there were institutions to protect the rights of journalists. The foreign minister further said that social media was also very active in the country.
It may be noted here that three channels were taken off air on Sunday in addition to a show of senior journalist Hamid Mir.
In addition to muffled criticism at home, international organisations have repeatedly called out Pakistani authorities for their clampdown on media houses.
They have condemned the suspension of three Pakistani television news channels for airing an opposition leader’s press conference as “brazen censorship”, calling the move indicative of “disturbing dictatorial tendencies”.
“This is an absolutely unacceptable violation of the principles of media pluralism and independence during a revelation that was clearly in the Pakistani public interest,” said Daniel Bastard, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, in a statement on Tuesday.