ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that freedom of expression is being “stifled on the pretext of national security”. “Hate speeches are flourishing, history is being distorted while freedom of expression is being curbed on the pretext of national security, so-called morality and contempt of court,” said the senator while speaking at a seminar on media regulations held here on Thursday. Babar said that all the provinces had legislated right to information (RTI) bills, however, the federal government was yet to adopt it. He said that the Senate Information Committee had finalised a draft RTI bill, but the government was still reluctant to legislate. In 2013, he said, when the committee began working on the RTI bill, it asked all the stakeholders including the Defence Ministry to give their views on the draft legislation, however, the Defence Ministry instead of giving its view asked the committee not to legislate RTI without obtaining a no objection certificate (NOC) from it. The committee of course dismissed this “contemptuous direction” of the Defence Ministry and proceeded to finalise the draft law, he said. He said that the national security was so all pervasive and ingrained in the psyche that the media also resorted to self-censorship. For instance, he said, despite the availability of visuals, the media initially declared that Mullah Mansour had been killed in Zabul inside Afghanistan and not in Pakistan because it was a “state narrative on the pretext of national security”. “Mainstream media has exercised self-imposed censorship in the matter of punishment of senior military officers for corruption despite the fact that the reports are not contradicted by the Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR),” he maintained. The proposed cyber crimes bill, he said, in its present form was also a threat to freedom of expression as well as to privacy. He proposed to convene a regional conference on right to dissent, right to information and freedom of expression including expression of religious beliefs. “We will have to strike a balance between considerations of security interest as defined by the security establishment and the larger public interest,” he emphasised. Pertinent to mention that 18th constitutional amendment has made right to information a fundamental right of all.