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Civil servants ordered to refrain from providing information to the media

(PPF/IFEX) - The Establishment Division of the Government of Pakistan issued an official letter to government servants on 2 July 2011, ordering them not to leak or share any "embarrassing" information with the media.

According to press reports, the Establishment Division's letter, signed by Deputy Secretary Muhammad Ijaz Ghani, was issued to all secretaries and additional secretaries, those in charge of ministries or divisions in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and all the chief secretaries of the four provinces.

The letter, which was itself leaked to the media on 13 July, stated that: "The undersigned (deputy secretary) is directed to state that instances have come to the notice of the government where official information/documents are communicated to the press/media and leakage of such information places the government in an embarrassing position.

"Communication to the press/media or to a government servant unauthorized to receive it or to a non-official person of any statement of fact or opinion or other information by a government servant which is likely to embarrass the government is prohibited under Rules 18 and 23 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1964, and any infringement of these rules is cognisable under the Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973.

"It is, therefore, imperative to bring these provisions of rules to the notice of all government servants for strict compliance. In the case of violation of these rules/instructions, the defaulting government servants may be prosecuted under Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1973."

The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) expressed grave concerns over the Establishment Division's notification as access to government information is a constitutional right of the media and citizens of the country and the notification violates this right. CPNE demanded that the government immediately withdraw the notification.

It is worth mentioning that the government's Interior Ministry also previously banned its officers from sharing any information with the media.

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