MNAs, media bodies at odds over space for terrorists

Published December 31, 2014
In this photo, Rangers personnel stand guard outside Parliament. — AFP/File
In this photo, Rangers personnel stand guard outside Parliament. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Parliamentarians and representatives of print and electronic media failed on Tuesday to forge a consensus over coverage of terrorists and terrorist activities, with industry experts saying the government apparently wanted to impose restrictions on media organisations in the wake of carnage at a Peshawar school.

A set of suggestions about changes to laws on public disclosures were presented at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, but most of the proposals were opposed by representatives of the media industry.

The meeting, held in the Parliament House and presided over by Pakistan Muslim League-N MNA Marvi Memon, ended up discussing mostly impractical measures, according to some observers.

At the meeting, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) was represented by Dr Basit Riaz, the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) by Sarmad Ali and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) by Khushnood Ali Khan. Several representatives of the civil society also attended the meeting.

“The committee members either want to shut down all media organisations, including social media outlets, or they are looking for excuses to cover up their failures,” Khushnood Ali Khan of the CPNE told Dawn.

“All of us — the CPNE, PBA and APNS — told the committee that it will be much better to enforce the existing laws instead of trying to impose restrictions on us.

“...The committee’s proposals were too vague and inappropriate”.

Tuesday’s session was the second held by the committee to discuss recommendations for the media and to formulate set of mechanisms to counter the narrative of terrorists.

The committee also discussed proposals to restrict the dissemination of direct and quoted statements about confessions and threats of violence from members of the proscribed organisations.

Though the proposals were supported by members of the committee and the civil society representatives, the media industry experts opposed them.

During the meeting, meanwhile, the media experts as well as lawmakers remained confused over what was meant by “glorification of terrorists”.

It was suggested that monitoring social media outlets fell within the domain of Nacta.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2014

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