UNITED NATIONS - A Pakistani delegate has urged the UN to step up efforts to forge harmony and mutual respect among peoples belonging to various societies, cultures and religions,

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which needs to be promoted and protected. But it should not be abused to create fissures between various cultures, civilisations and religions," Pakistani delegate Mian Jahangir Iqbal told the Committee on Information, an intergovernmental body charged with reviewing progress in the field of UN public information.

"The Committee has a central role to ensure that the UN public information policies are geared towards forging greater harmony and mutual respect among peoples belonging to various societies, cultures and religions," said Jahangir Iqbal, who is the press minister at the Pakistan Mission to the UN.

He emphasised the importance of accurate, objective and balanced news and information services in print, radio, television and over the internet.

He told the Committee that the press enjoyed complete freedom in Pakistan under the democratic government. "As a result of the government's media-friendly policies, there is an unprecedented surge in the expansion of electronic media."

The Pakistani delegate said the United Nations Information Centres were a vital source of information and a bridge between developed and developing countries in terms of access to information and communication technologies.

He recommended that they receive adequate resources, and also urged that the Department consider restoring full services to the Centre in Islamabad.

In addition, Iqbal emphasised the need to strengthen technology, multilingualism, and partnerships in all areas and supported the continuation of outreach to civil society, efforts to improve access to library services and a wide range of other initiatives.