ISLAMABAD – Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb on Thursday informed the Senate Standing Committee on Information that a bill for welfare and protection of journalists will be presented before the cabinet for approval next week.
The committee met in the chair of Chairman Senator Kamil Ali Agha in the Parliament House discussed the performance of sub-departments of the ministry as well as Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority amendment Bill 2017.
Marriyum Aurangzeb told the committee that the Journalist Protection Bill envisages the establishment of a welfare fund for the journalists in which government and the media owners will equally contribute.
She said the proposed bill has been prepared in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. She said the United Nations guideline regarding protection and rights of journalist will also be part of the bill.
After the approval of federal cabinet, she said, the Bill will be presented in the National Assembly and Senate and Ministry of Law.
Chairman and other members of the standing committee appreciated the effort put in by the minister for framing of the proposed bill for journalists.
The committee also asked for complete information from the relevant institutions about the arrest of a Quetta-based journalist Zafarullah Achakzai in June last under the Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and his subsequent release on bail within a week.
The formal written reply submitted by the Ministry on the agenda item merely stated that Achakzai was booked on June 28 and bailed out on July 6, 2017.
Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that the reply was inadequate and raised more questions and demanded to know the specific charges brought against the journalist.
The Principal Information Officer told that his tentative inquiries had revealed that Achakzai was arrested by FIA on the complaint of a security related institution for his alleged involvement in activities that went against the integrity of the federation.
Babar took exception to this reply and demanded to know more details. He said that the recently passed Right to Information legislation had struck a balance between considerations of national security and the right of public to know and every post on social media piece can’t be declared as an issue of national security.
He said it is important to know the details so that while no one is allowed to breach national security. The security institutions also are not allowed to stifle dissent and alternate opinions behind the facade of national security, he added.
He said that it was mandatory under the Electronic Crimes Act that the FIA submitted six-monthly report to the parliament, which had not yet been done. Senator Attiq Shaikh of MQM proposed amendment in the PEMRA Act 2017 to end the practice of promoting through TV commercials the use of skin whitening formulas and alternative medicines, including what he said ‘nuskhajat’ and ‘totkaey’ which were harmful to health.
After some discussion on the proposed amendment, the committee decided that members will give their views in writing. It was also decided to invite the comments of the Law Division.
Lastly, the state minister also informed the committee that acting charge of Managing Director PTV will be given next week till the appointment of permanent head of PTV.