ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Wednesday said the government was planning to amend the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory (PEMRA) laws in consultation with all the stakeholders.
“We are bringing amendments in the PEMRA rules and talks are being held with the Joint Action Committee on proposed amendments,” she said during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting chaired by Senator Faisal Javed Khan. The minister said during the previous regime, the payment of journalists’ salaries were not linked with the issuance of advertisements to media houses. Even the payment of dues in that regard to those media outlets, which delayed the payment of salaries to their staff, were not stopped.
She assured that now a law was being enacted regarding media workers’ salaries and contracts. Marriyum said former information minister Chaudhry Fawad had changed the category of channels during his tenure as minister. In 2019, she added, after the Supreme Court’s decision, the process to rate channels was started.
Prior to this classification, she said, the Press Information Department had a transparent system for advertisements, under which the channels were rated according to their programmes and time. The channels were given advertisements in A, B and C categories, she added. Marriyum said transparency in advertisements’ distribution had been ensured by the present regime and no discrimination was being done against any channel.
She said during the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz tenure, advertisements were also issued regarding the 70 birth anniversary of Pakistan. The minister said the government fully believed in freedom of the media and it was taking steps to safeguard it. “In the past, journalists were abducted and tortured but no such incident has taken place in our tenure.” What happened to the journalists, media workers and media houses in the last four years were a dark chapter in the history of journalism, she maintained. In the past, restrictions were imposed on the freedom of expression, with kidnapping and torturing of the journalists were order of the day, she added.
The minister said she stood with the journalists like Absar Alam, Asad Toor and Irfan Siddiqui, who were persecuted by the previous regime. An independent media, she said, held a government accountable. She said all the journalists, including those against whom the first information reports (FIRs) were registered, had given their viewpoint in the meeting. On her suggestion, the committee decided to summon the inspectors general of police (IGPs) concerned in its next meeting to get their stance on the FIRs.
The committee was briefed by the Information Ministry officials on the amount spent on the government advertisements issued to the electronic and print media from 2008 to 2013, 2013 to 2018 and 2018 to 2022, and details of payment procedures. It was told that advertisements were issued in five phases. Principal Information Officer Mubashir Hassan said after approval of the advertisements by federal government agencies, the PID released advertisements to media outlets as per the requirements of the relevant ministry or department.
He said the PID issued the advertisements directly to the publications. Transparency in the issuance of advertisements and their payments was being ensured by the government and the Ministry of Information, he maintained. From 2013 to 2018, he said, advertisements were given to the electronic media by the Ministry of Information. The “Outdoor Campaign” was launched from 2018, while advertisements regarding the Operation Zarb-e-Azb were given from 2013 to 2015, he added.
The committee issued directives to provide record of TV channel ratings and advertisements issued to them. It was also informed about the Pakistan Television’s coverage for all the provincial governments, including Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The report on the implementation of the recommendations and decisions of the committee on June 1, 2022 was presented in the meeting.
PEMRA Chairman Muhammad Saleem Baig told the committee that action had been taken against cable operators concerned on a complaint received from ARY, whose placement on the cable networks had not been changed. He said that the management of ARY channel had also filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court. The issue of felling of various trees from the premises of Radio Pakistan Rawalpindi was also discussed in the meeting. Secretary Information Shahera Shahid said a committee had been constituted on the issue on the directives of information minister which would present its detailed report in the next meeting of the committee.