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Govt to conduct inquiry on PML-N rewarding journalists, channels

Fawad said Maryam Nawaz doled out public funds heading the PML-N's media cell. Source: APP.

ISLAMABAD: Federal Ministers on Wednesday have slammed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz after she admitted that an audio clip of her issuing instructions to refuse advertisements to certain TV channels was genuine.

The video had raised eyebrows as Maryam Nawaz did not hold office during the PML-N’s tenure. However, the PML-N played down her acknowledgment, saying that Maryam was talking about party ads and not public funds.

Addressing a press conference, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Maryam Nawaz doled out Rs 18 billion from national kitty to reward blue-eyed journalists and media channels at federal and Punjab levels in their last tenure.

Fawad said Maryam Nawaz doled out these public funds as head of a media cell at the Prime Minister’s House during PML-N previous tenure. “With approval of the party’s media cell, supervised by Maryam Nawaz, Rs 9,625,430,902 were utilised for funding of federal government (advertisements), while around Rs 10 billion for Punjab government.”

Flanked by Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, the minister announced to share the record with media persons after the briefing. He said advertisements for the Federal and Provincial governments were managed by the ‘notorious media cell’ set up by the PML-N to reward specific journalists over stories in their favour.

Fawad said a special media cell had been working under the direct supervision of Maryam Nawaz at the Prime Minister House in 2015. Initially, 15 members were made part of the cell and later Rs 20 million were allocated for additional recruitment mandated to run targeted media campaigns, he added.

He said Maryam Nawaz affirmed that she was supervising the cell during PML-N tenure. Fawad said admission of Maryam of curtailing or blocking advertisements for specific television channels was certainly an immoral and illegal act. “The handling of public fund by a private person is a crime under the jurisdiction of the FIA but also liable of disqualification,” he said.

READ MORE: Maryam Nawaz admits leaked audio on controlling TV channels’ ads

The minister said Maryam’s admission had proved that as to how the PML-N carried out ‘systematic manipulation’ of the media during its last tenure. He said it was an eye-opening revelation for the journalist community and media organizations.

“With this, it could be assumed that as to how much difficulty was being faced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf when it did not have such resources. We do not have the resources to dole out the huge amount of Rs 15 to 18 billion to someone. We have decided to conduct a serious inquiry to probe the matter,” he said.

He said thorough investigations would be conducted how Maryam was running the show, following the confession that she was awarding and punishing the journalists and media houses despite having no official position. It might be noted that the misappropriation of public money was a separate criminal case, he added.

Responding to a question, the minister said Maryam was calling the shot as then Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid was a puppet. To a query, he said Maryam’s confessions were also a test case for the journalist community and what was their opinion on the entire episode.

Hammad Azhar said Maryam Safdar had confessed that she ran the media cell and blocked the ads of some media channels during PML-N’s regime.

“She did not mention the names of media houses which were rewarded as it was obvious that – if one was indulged in punishing someone, he or she might have rewarded someone for their services. PML-N would have to answer squandering public money,” he added.

Azhar said freedom of media could not be compromised, Hammad said adding that PML-N leadership was confessing their crimes right from the ownership of Avenfield apartments to media cell and hopefully remaining confessions would come to fore also. PTI government would share the different tactics were being used by PML-N to control media, he added.

He said PML-N had doled out plots to many journalists, also targeted their opponents and deprived many of journalists from their jobs, however such tactics would no more be tolerated.

Responding to a question Hammad said it could be assumed that the emergence of different fake videos and audio tapes were the handy work of Maryam’s media cell. “Had such confessions of influencing media were made by the daughter of a prime minister in a western country – their whole family would have landed in jail,” he added.

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