Pakistan government has decided to impose curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders, in a purported move to gag Opposition leaders who use it for their "benefit."
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said the decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting presided by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"The prime minister has given a task to the law minister to draft a law to curb media coverage of convicts and absconders," she told media after the meeting.
Although the prime minister's adviser did not name any of the convicts or absconders against whom the new law was being considered, it is believed that she was talking about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.
"If they are innocent, why do they take the benefit of media and do not come to the country to face their cases," she said without naming anyone.
Nawaz Sharif, who has been sentenced to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, flew to London last month in an air ambulance for medical treatment for multiple diseases after the Lahore High Court allowed him to travel abroad for four weeks.
In reply to a question, Awan said it was the desire of the prime minister that the proposed law placing curbs on media coverage of convicts and absconders be applied across the board.
"The law minister will sit with Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) officials to finalise a draft of the law," she added.
The Pak government has already come under criticism for curbing freedom of media. Several incidents of intimidation to journalists and media houses have been reported in recent months.
Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had in July alleged that Imran Khan's government imposed a "complete ban" on the media coverage of Opposition leaders, especially on Maryam whom he considers a "big threat" to his rule.
Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists in July said in a statement "Pakistan's most popular news channel, the privately owned Geo News broadcaster, has been forced off the air or had its channel number abruptly changed in many parts of the country."
Last week, protesters attacked the office of a leading newspaper here for publishing a report mentioning that the London Bridge attacker was of Pakistani origin.