Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi heckled in London over press censorship

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London: A midst reports of growing press censorship in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was heckled by a Canadian journalist in London alleging that his social media account was suspended over complaints from the government, according to media reports.

Qureshi was attending a press conference on ‘Defend Media Freedom’ in London on Thursday when the incident took place, days after Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) suspended transmission of three private TV channels for airing an interview of jailed former President Asif Ali Zardari.

The move came as the Pakistan government decided to curtail the space given by the press to jailed politicians like Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Zardari.

Journalist Ezra Levant of the Rebel media, a Canadian far-right political website, interrupted and verbally assaulted the minister alleging that his Twitter account was suspended over complaints from the Pakistan government, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Twitter didn’t delete my whole account. But they deleted a tweet they said violated Pakistani law. Twitter said that to me in an email. I’m in Canada. Twitter is in America. But Pakistan censored us,” he tweeted.

In a video clip of the incident shared by Pakistan journalist Munizae Jahangir on Twitter, Levant said the organisers should be embarrassed to invite a “censorious thug” to talk about free speech.

Levant also accused the minister of adopting double standards on free speech, the report said.

Responding to the allegations, Qureshi said, “first of all you want your sentiments to be respected. Just look at the tone to the panel you have adopted. Is that the correct way? You have a right to ask questions.”

“You have double standards what you call freedom; at times you are projecting certain agendas,” the minister said.

Replying to a question on Pemra’s recent decision to take three television channels off air, the arrest of journalists and deepening concerns about censorship, Qureshi said there was “no question of gagging” journalists.

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