Journalist Told He Is 'No Longer Required' After Asking PM Shehbaz 'Tough' Question

Journalist Told He Is 'No Longer Required' After Asking PM Shehbaz 'Tough' Question
A senior journalist, who was paid for appearing on the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) as an analyst, found that he was no longer required by the channel immediately after he asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif a 'tough' question, The Express Tribune reported.

During a press conference at the Governor House in Lahore on the second day of Eidul Azha, Azam Chaudary was deputed by his contracting organization, PTV.

During the question and answer session, Chaudhry asked a two-part question on the growing restrictions imposed on the media and the "diminishing space for freedom of speech".

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif responded by expressing his disapproval of curbs imposed on media freedom but ultimately referred to Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, who spoke about distinguishing between bonafide journalists and political workers posing as journalists, politics and the authority of the state and emphasized that the two should be treated separately.

After the press conference ended and the crews packed up their gear to cover the rest of the program, Chaudary said he was discreetly informed that he was not required to participate and perform his duty as a journalist.

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The incident occurred after Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in a bid to address his viral clip of clapping a slap to a journalist in the parking lot of the parliament a few weeks earlier, had pointed to his administration's media-friendly policies.

Chaudary said that PTV had contracted him in September 2022 and was part of the team that launched the program "Bakhaber" on the state-run channel. He is the incumbent president of the Lahore Press Club.

Verbal message

Speaking exclusively to The Friday Times about the incident, Chaudary confirmed that he was at the press conference at the Governor House in Lahore on the second day of Eidul Azha.

He added that he had been asked by the producers that he would be required to host a transmission from the Governor House later that day along with two other journalists. However, after his question in the press conference, he was informed that he was not required for the transmission.

"The channel excused that I was not part of the program anymore," Chaudary said.

He added that the producer of a regular show, of which he is a part of, did not invite him for the next episode after the Governor House incident.

"It was communicated verbally that I had been put off air," Chaudary said.

Govt refutes Chaudary's claim of being fired

In a rejoinder by the government and PTV management on Chaudary's alleged dismissal, the government said that the news originally published by The Express Tribune was "misleading, inaccurate and against journalistic ethos."

"It presents a one-sided story that services of a contact employee were terminated since it lacks the viewpoint of the PTV management or information ministry.

Contrary to what has been alleged, the management of PTV has not issued any directives to bar Mr. Azam Chaudhary's appearances on the programme/s. Chaudhry had been participating in a programme as an analyst and sharing his views freely. Participation in a programme does not make one part of the team.

It would be pertinent to mention that selection of relevant analysts for a programme is based on the topic being discussed and is the producer's discretion.

There is a possibility that Mr. Chaudhary may have not been approached by the producer in recent days which is a common practice and PTV analysts are well aware about gaps in their appearances.

PTV has a pool of analysts who are selected based on the program's requirements expertise of the participants. It is worth noting that Mr. Chaudhary has himself declined participation in different shows on several occasions in the past, citing his unavailability and there was no objection or action by the PTV.

The claim that Mr. Azam Chaudhary is a contract employee of PTV is inaccurate and false as all such employees are barred from working elsewhere.

Whereas Mr. Chaudhary is being duly paid for his participation as an analyst in a program like many other analysts. He has not been barred from working for any other organization.

It is regrettable that the article did not present a comprehensive and balanced account of the situation and that Mr Chaudhary didn't come forward to set the record straight.

Failure in such situations can lead to projection of skewed information of the events and misrepresent the actions of the parties involved."

Later, Federal Information Minister Aurangzeb in a tweet clarified that Chaudary was never an employee of PTV. Instead, she said that he was and remains a member of pool of issue-based analysts for PTV. All members are paid per their appearance on PTV.

"He has not been removed from this pool and has not been asked to leave. Nothing of the sort has been communicated to him. He is part of PTV Lahore Analyst pool as I write this tweet."

She asserted that the government is well aware of the journalist's views and despite that, he was invited and allowed in the press conference.

"If the government wanted to suppress his voice or questions, he would not have been invited and given the opportunity to ask his questions," she explained, adding that Prime Minister Shehbaz also answered his question in great detail and that she also added her views on the question.

She added that unlike the previous regime, PM Shehbaz Sharif and the incumbent government firmly believe in media freedom.

"The PTI government used to only allow selected reporters and journalists to its fascist PM's press conferences. The present government ensures that PM Shehbaz Sharif's press conferences are open to all reporters and journalists."