ISLAMABAD: The government has no plans to amend media laws without the consent of media representatives and other stakeholders, Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry said on Thursday.

“The PTI government will not amend or introduce any new law about media unilaterally,” the minister said. “The government has decided to constitute an information commission under the Right to Informa­tion (RTI) Act enacted last year and the first information commissioner will be appointed within one month to ensure access to information.”

Mr Chaudhry was speaking at a meeting of the Council of Pakistan Newspa­pers’ Edi­tors (CPNE).

The minister reiterated that the government be­liev­ed in freedom of expression and regulation did not mean censorship.

He said access to information for media and the public was vital to ensure transparency and good governance.

“For good legislation, consensus among all stakeholders is needed and the government will take opposition parties on board before introducing new legislation,” Mr Chaudhry added.

The minister said freedom won by the media over the past few decades was an achievement unique to Pakistan in the Third World.

He clarified that a new media authority would be established to replace the existing Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), the Press Council of Pakistan and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

“The unified authority will provide one-window facility to media outlets and the general public for redress of their complaints. This will help save national resources as the new regulatory body will look after electronic, print and social media simultaneously.”

The minister said the PTI government had started implementing its manifesto and taken unprecedented initiatives to put the country on the path to progress and prosperity. “The government has planted 15 million saplings in a single day and intends to plant 10 billion saplings in five years.”

He said since promotion of tourism was a major plank of the PTI’s manifesto, the government had decided to relax the visa regime for foreign journalists and a policy was ready for implementation.

In reply to a query about government advertisements, Mr Chaudhry said the government wanted to introduce a transparent mechanism for the purpose and would welcome input from media organisations.

“The government will keep in mind that the newspaper industry is facing a battle for survival and ensure that advertisements go where they are needed the most,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018

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