ISLAMABAD: An amendment to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Ordi­nance 2002 requiring the government to issue only written directives on policy matters has been submitted to the Senate.

The amendment to Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance states that the federal government may from time to time issue directives to the regulator in writing on a policy matter.

Talking to Dawn, a senior Pemra official said on Friday that the law provided wide-ranging powers to the government, but there was severe criticism of the regulator when the former’s directives were implemented.

The Section 5 of the existing law states: “The Federal Government may, as and when it considers necessary, issue directives to the Authority on matters of policy, and such directives shall be binding on the Authority, and if a question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not, the decision of the Federal Gover­nment shall be final.”

The Pemra official said: “There is rational upgradation of the law as currently it granted overwhelming powers to the government, allowing it to issue verbal directives which when challenged in a court of law cannot be proven by the regulatory body.”

The amendment also states that the directive issued by the government has to be related to Article 19 of the Constitution.

The Article 19 reads: “…Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or incitement to an offence.”

The other amendment proposed to Section 6 of the ordinance relates to constitution of Pemra.

Under the current law, there are 12 members of Pemra, including chairman.

The amendment proposes that the authority should have nine members, including chairman. It also suggested inclusion of a nominee of the Pakistan Broad­casters Association in Pemra.

Besides the chairman, eight other members of Pemra proposed by the amendment are: an official appointed by the federal government, an officer of grade-22, the Pakistan Telecomm­unication Authority chairman, one nominee of the PBA and one member each from the four provinces.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018