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NSC decision on access to information

In a society where the right to know is curbed, expecting healthy changes looks to be irrational. Positive changes don’t happen on their own. To talk of change and suppression, particularly our part of the world, human rights are not only violated by militants, assassinations, intimidations by non-state actors, but also by denying the right to information and unfair economic structures that unleash massive and persistent inequalities. In a country like ours where media should be free at all costs because it has been one of the powerful and biggest instruments in demonizing the Taliban and creating anti-Taliban awareness on massive scale looks to be under attack from the government. Now that media is considered to be an influential instruments in shaping minds and it has established as one the key institutions in helping the government to isolate the Taliban then why it’s right to know should be clipped. Yes, it is worth satisfaction that soon after media complaints, the ministry of interior (MoI) responded to the hue and cry and rejected that the National Security Council (NSC) has barred provincial police chiefs from sharing information with newsmen particularly security-related information. MoI spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said Tuesday that the decision taken by the NSC was misinterpreted. He clarified that only the spokesmen of police chiefs have been barred from providing information to newsmen on security events to avoid flow of misleading information. Chiding the restriction, media advocacy groups have called on the government to avoid taking up policies that cause troubles to reporters. Though, MoI spokesman attempted to assuage the concerns of media however it looks to be just a temporary approach. Earlier the government passed such a media law that earned criticism from newsmen and now this happened. Therefore, an extensive debate between media representatives and government officials should be held to define who is authorized to speak to media and who is not because currently many police chiefs have denied to talk on security issues. Any decision taken in haste by any government body wouldn’t be acceptable for media-men as it would be considered an assault on the right to know. If any state-structure attempts to influence information-flow it would be as if the state doesn’t want to promote the culture of media freedom and the covert objective would be as if the government doesn’t want to be accountable. Its media’s positive role that earned the wrath of militants and many journalists were slain. If the government fears about the misuse of free speech by any individual or organization it should be dealt in that capacity instead of clamping down on entire media fraternity. Restrictions should be interpreted strictly and narrowly. They should be proportionate to the aim pursued as media in the country have been doing its job much maturely. Prior restrictions are acceptable but only in emergencies and extremely exceptional circumstances. Information shouldn’t be denied under the pretext or façade of national interests as there is no concrete definition of national interests. Any prior restraint requires a higher justification and calls for tight scrutiny. Sans acceptable justification, any attempt that gags press freedom is considered to be an act of democratic-dictatorship. To show responsibility, media should start self-introspection so that there is no misuse of press freedom.

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