Senate panel asks information ministry to present report on PEMRA bill

Marriyum says activation of editorial committees in all private television channels imperative to ensure self-regulation

Says bill has been prepared in consultation with all stakeholders—including APNS, CPNE, PFUJ, others


ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Thursday sought a report on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill 2017 after taking input from PEMRA and the Law Ministry.

The directive was issued by the committee meeting held here under the chairmanship of Senator Kamil Ali Agha. The committee discussed the private member bill of Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh and asked the Information and Broadcasting Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera to present a report on the bill within 15 days.

Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb said that activation of editorial committees in all private television channels was imperative to ensure self-regulation—a common practice all over the world.

She said that PEMRA was performing its duties but self-regulation was the best way of bringing improvement.

Senators Nehal Hashmi and Saeedul Hassan Mandokahil raised the point of mudslinging against the political leadership on the electronic media and said that politicians were defamed.

PEMRA Chairman Absar Alam told the committee that, under the PEMRA Act, protection has been provided to the judiciary and armed forces, but there was no such provision for politicians. He said that parliament was a supreme institution but PEMRA was bound to follow the law.  He said that PEMRA has been working to establish its writ; in many cases, the management of the television channels gets stay from the courts. In this regard, he mentioned the issue of fake IB list of politicians having links with banned organisations.

Marriyum informed the committee that the first draft of the bill for welfare and protection of journalists had been prepared, and it will be presented before the cabinet legislative committee for approval soon. She added that the bill envisages the establishment of a welfare fund for the journalists, in which both the government and the media owners will contribute. “Security, protection and welfare of the journalists was a major concern, which would be addressed through this legislation,” she said, adding that when she took charge as the minister of state, former PM Nawaz Sharif had directed her to ensure early enactment of the law.

She said after the 18th amendment, the provinces were responsible to enact their own laws in their jurisdiction, and the federal law would be implemented in the federal capital. She said the bill has been prepared in consultation with all stakeholders—including All Pakistan Newspaper Society, Council of Newspapers Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and others. “After formal approval of the bill a special fund for the welfare of journalists’ community would be constituted,” she announced.

Members of the committee appreciated the efforts put in by the minister of state for framing of the proposed bill for journalists. The minister said that the government has taken serious notice of a programme aired by PTV, in which a poet ridiculed and stigmatised the Pushtun community, imposing a lifetime ban on the participation of the concerned poet in any programme of the official channel. The minister also said that producer, scriptwriter and the members of the editorial committee, which was supposed to preview the programme before the telecast, have been suspended.

She said it was a lapse for which she tendered an apology in the National Assembly, which was also highlighted on social media.

Marriyum said that PTV has been working for national integrity and it has been promoting regional languages and culture, despite financial constraints.  She said that a permanent editorial committee was being constituted in PTV to avoid such incidents in future. She also informed the committee that Intelligence Bureau has filed an FIR against the fake list of members of parliament having links with banned organisations.

Marriyum also informed the committee that the government was taking steps for content aimed towards children on the television channels, as no children specific programmes were being telecast by TV channels.

About registration of an FIR and arrest of Zafarullah Achakzai, a journalist in Balochistan, the committee was informed that he was accused of uploading pictures and comments against the federation. The PIO informed that he was arrested on June 28 and got bail on July 6; presently, the matter was sub judice.

The committee issued directives to the PIO to get details of the FIR and present it to the committee.


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