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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information on Tuesday decried live coverage being given to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at PTV and demanded fair coverage of all political parties and provincial governments.

The issue was taken up by a meeting of the committee presided over by its chairman Senator Faisal Javed of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Initiating the discussion, Mr Javed said that the state-owned electronic media was mostly busy in extensive coverage of the deposed prime minister who had been disqualified by the court of law. “Not only that but PTV also airs three hour-long speech of his daughter despite the fact that she does not hold any public office,” he added.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb defended the government policy and said that it was her responsibility to ensure the coverage of Mr Sharif and that she was using her discretionary powers to ensure complete coverage of Mr Sharif as he had been prime minister of the country thrice.

Calls for fair coverage of all parties, provincial govts

“He is a leader and the federal cabinet has granted this right to me. Even if he delivers a speech for five hours, we will air it,” the minister said.

This prompted uproar in the meeting as the members criticised the government for formulating “person-specific policies.

The chairman of the committee sarcastically said that it seemed that the government would devise a policy to give coverage to Mr Sharif “at PTV Home and PTV Sports” too. “I fear that a drama series titled ‘Mujhe Kyoon Nikala’ will be aired at PTV Home soon,” he said.

Senator Khushbakht Shujaat of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that the issues faced by Pakistan had been suppressed by the coverage of the ruling party only. She stressed the need for giving a neutral face to PTV and enhancing its revenue through innovative means.

The committee members said that PTV was giving time to the ruling party only though it was a national and state-owned channel which should not be dominated by one party only.

“PTV budget is derived from the national exchequer and all the provincial governments too should be covered by the channel,” the chairman of the committee said. “It should not be a propaganda tool of the ruling party.”

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid said PTV should give fair coverage to all political parties and also highlight issues faced by women and children.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami said that it had become a tradition that PTV gave extensive coverage to the government and the ruling party and parties other than the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had followed this trend when in power.

Similarly, Senator Shujaat said that as soon as a party assumed power, it started tightening grip at PTV by making appointments based on political grounds, including key offices and even that of managing director.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018