ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Monday that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would formally launch Journalists Health Insurance Card Scheme on August 7.
She stated this after launching the registration process for Journalists Health Insurance Scheme by uploading its form on the website of the Press Information Department and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The minister said that the health insurance form was now available online for media workers and journalists and they would be able to register themselves through the online health insurance form.
The minister said that for the first time, the government had allocated Rs 1 billion for the health insurance of working journalists in the federal budget. Marriyum Aurangzeb uploaded this online registration form along with journalists present there while Principal Information Officer Mubashar Hassan was also present on the occasion.
The minister congratulated Secretary Information and Broadcasting Sohail Ali Khan, PIO Mubasher Hassan and the entire team of the Ministry of Information for launching the scheme. Talking to the media persons, she said that the Prime Minister had allocated funds worth Rs 1 billion for working journalists. She said that health insurance for working journalists and artists was the vision of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had launched the health card scheme in 2013 which continued in the PTI era after the change of its name. She said said that an online form of health insurance card scheme for journalists was being released. This registration form would be available on the website of the Press Information Department, she said and added that the process of registration of journalists was being started.
The health insurance form was simple and easy to fill and all details related to health issues were available in the form, the minister said. She said that all health facilities were being provided to journalists in the health insurance card scheme. “Health insurance and salaries of journalists have always been an issue in Pakistan”, she remarked. During 14 months, she added Rs 110 million had been recovered from the platform of ITNE and direct payments had been made to the employees in print media.
The minister said Minimum wage, job security of electronic media had been addressed in the amended PEMRA law, adding it was the Prime Minister’s directive to ensure health insurance to journalists as soon as possible and all working journalists had been included. This project was for the whole of Pakistan, journalists from all over the country should start registering in it, she maintained.
“Health insurance facilities from the government are for journalists across the country,not for journalists of Islamabad only”, she remarked. She said during the tenure of the present coalition government, no action had been taken against journalists having critical views about its policies and performance.
In the present government rule no journalists attacked, kidnapped, arrested or fired at as was the practice during the previous government, she added. Taking a jibe on PTI tenure, regarding the title of media predator given to Imran Khan by Reporters Without Borders, she the current government did not get that title, on the contrary the ranking of freedom of expression in Pakistan improved by seven ranks.
Replying to questions from media persons, she said that the health insurance scheme was not only for press club members, it was for all journalists and media workers. “It is not mandatory for a journalist to be a member of the Press Club for health insurance registration,” she said.
The minister said all stakeholders were involved in the process of preparation of PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023 and no one opposed the bill or issued any adverse statement. She said that the Pakistan Broadcasters Association had issued a statement regarding the PEMRA (Amendment) Bill. Only a certain group was indulged in propaganda against PEMRA Amendment Bill 2023, the minister added.
She remarked that these people thought that they would continue spreading propaganda in the country and no one would question them but this would not happen now. She said that registration of journalists for health insurance would be done through digital form to ensure transparency. The minister said that the PM’s Health Card and health insurance card for journalists were two separate schemes. A journalist who is benefiting from the Prime Minister Health Card Scheme would not be eligible for the Journalists’ Health Insurance Scheme, she said in reply to a question.