ISLAMABAD: The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) has expressed its grave concern over the government’s decision to form a “content committee” for prior approval of all advertisements to be released to media.

In a statement, the APNS has “deplored” that Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has formed the committee “headed by himself” to monitor and approve “release of advertisements by the provincial and federal governments”.

“The APNS considers this as a surgical strike which would perish the independence and viability of media and would be used as a lever to curb press freedom in the country,” says the statement. “The action is contrary to the assurances of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for not only upholding press freedoms but also on devolution of power to provincial and district level.”

The APNS regrets that through this action, the federal government has initiated “a policy to control print and electronic media” through over centralisation of advertisements which is the backbone of the media’s economy.

“The APNS believes that this is actually an encroachment on the powers vested in the provinces under the constitution,” it says, adding that the APNS has questioned the intention of the federal government as to whether it actually believes in devolution of power or not.

“The APNS is of the considered view that only a financially and vibrant media can perform the role of a free and objective watchdog of the interests of the people and safeguard democratic norms in the country,” it says.

It says that ever since the induction of the PTI government, the quantum of the advertisements released by the federal and provincial governments has drastically declined, causing acute financial crunch and dent to the economy of newspapers, particularly the regional and smaller press.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018

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