Opp should work above party lines to understand spirit of Pakistan Media Development Authority bill: Fawad

ISLAMABAD – Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain has said that it is first time in the history of Pakistan that all the stakeholders along with the legislative bodies are extensively being consulted prior to the official passing of the bill on proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA). While briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry and Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib briefed the committee on the concept paper for PMDA. A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on the newly proposed PMDA was held here on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed at the Parliament House. Briefing the committee on the proposed bill, the information minister said that it has become a convention by the opposition to oppose every bill proposed by the government, however, this is an important bill and they should work above party lines to understand the spirit and objective behind the bill. He lamented that a fake ordinance was issued to misinterpret and created chaos in the country against the freedom of journalism which the government believes is its utmost right. He said that primarily this idea is based to address four central points, including the convergence of broadcast, digital, telecom and print media, protecting the rights of the media workers, protection from abusive harmful content and fake news and a robust complaint redressal  mechanism, rationalization of imposing fine on violations and reducing regulatory cost. It was also briefed that Media Tribunal will consist of ten members (10) including a chairman. Fawad said that the government has constituted two forums in view of the challenges of journalists and to address issues of fake news. He said that any working journalist cannot support fake news.

He said that it is very unfortunate and cannot be run long that some elements start blackmailing tactics, whenever the government aims at bringing some proposals. He said that some things should think keeping aside politics.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib briefed the committee and said that the objections on the draft of the proposed bill do not mean that it has become law.

He said the Journalists Protection Bill is pending before the Human Rights Committee since last three months. He said protection of the journalists rights and lives in necessary across the country.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar speaking in the committee said that the minister for information should listen views of others, as he delivered his speech and left the meeting.

He said that it seems that draft of the bill has been made and its points are being shared. He said that the government should disclose whether the bill is in the Ministry of Law and Justice.

He said that both PPP and PML-N victimized each other in their respective regimes.

Senator Mustafa Khokhar said that media was also victimized but with the passage of time, we learn a lesson. He said that government is lying on the bill.

The Chairman Committee Faisal Javed highlighted that Prime Minister Imran Khan would never put curbs of any kind on the freedom of speech and press. “Prime Minister Imran Khan completely believes in freedom of expression,” Faisal Javed added.

He said that the PTI’s menifesto says, “We are committed to maintaining a vigorous free media, which will evolve its own rules to ensure responsible journalism.”

He welcomed all the stakeholders (PBA, CPNE, PFUJ, PRA, and AEMEND), representatives of journalist bodies and other national media groups to express their reservations and point of view for the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority and we want all journalist organizations, media workers’ opinions and suggestions to be brought to the fore. Everyone must work together for the promotion of freedom of press and development of media stressed Senator Faisal Javed.

He said that the good things of PMDA should be appreciated and flexibility should be shown for improvement. He reiterated that as long as the proposed PMDA guarantees the rights of the freedom of journalism and interest of the nation at large, we should acknowledge it.

He also said that the PMDA bill has not been put before our committee so far. “Standing Committee is a legislative forum, it can comment on the legislation, so far only the concept paper has been shown”, Faisal Javed commented.

He said that we shall be in a better position to decide once we receive the draft on the bill. “We have informed the information ministry of our response and recommendations” stated Faisal Javed.

He said the chairman of the Tribunal shall be a person who has been or is qualified to be a judge of the High court or Supreme Court.

He questioned whether or not many of the good objectives that are included in the PMDA possible without this integration?

The Chairman Committee said that fake news is a big challenge today. He said the information systems have become more polarized and contentious. We need to tackle Fake News via strengthening libel laws, encouraging independent professional journalism. He said Technology can also be used to identify fake news via algorithms and crowd sourcing.

Earlier in the meeting, the committee members were briefed on the Directorate of Electronic Media & Publications (DEMP).

The chairman committee concluded the meeting to sit again after the receiving of the legislative draft on the proposed bill of the PDMA.

The meeting was attended by Senator Aon Abbas Buppi, Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Anwar Lal Dean, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Irfan ul Haque Siddiqui, in addition, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry while all the stakeholders (PBA, CPNE, PFUJ, PRA, AEMEND), representatives of journalist bodies and other national media groups were present in the meeting.

Source: The Nation

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