KARACHI: The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) on Tuesday strongly condemned the levy of sales tax by the Sindh government on newspaper advertisements, terming the situation alarming for the print media particularly when the provincial government has yet to clear more than Rs1 billion dues.
Seeking withdrawal of the sudden move, the APNS said it was not only in conflict with the 2013 decision of the Sindh government to exclude advertisements appearing in newspapers from the sales tax regime but also in sharp contrast with the claims of Sindh legislators to protect the press.
APNS President Hameed Haroon and Secretary General Sarmad Ali deplored the sudden issuance of the notification of June 27, 2019 — a day after the passing of Sindh budget — through which the provincial government reversed its 2013 decision without prior consultation with the stakeholders.
The APNS leadership stated: “The Sindh government has violated its earlier decision without any prior consultation or dialogue with the stakeholders. The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, had provided us repeated assurances that all matters relating to a sales tax for services to and by newspapers would be resolved amicably.
‘‘The Sindh Revenue Board has instead unilaterally decided to impose the new tax, a clear indication that it does not respect its own annual budget, nor does it believe in facilitating conditions necessary for the survival of a free press and its journalists in Sindh.
“The situation that arises from the new moves by the Sindh government is an alarming one. The Sindh government has completely failed to clear a huge, subsidised backlog of advertising dues worth over Rs1 billion, several bills going back to as early as 2010.
“In this way, the Sindh government has contrived to usurp the financial rights of newspapers, and to inflict colossal damage upon those national newspapers and periodicals headquartered in Sindh, as well as the regional media located in the province.”
In a statement issued by APNS executive director Dr Tanvir A. Tahir, the prime body of newspaper publishers in the country asked the Sindh government if it was “fair and just that the government acquiesced in the destruction of the newspaper industry in the province of Sindh?’’
The APNS urged Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to “withdraw the draconian measure and to immediately begin payments of advertising dues to the print media in Sindh. Otherwise, we will be forced to conclude that the Sindh government is no friend of the free press, and to consider alternative measures for our survival.”
Published in Dawn, July 3rd , 2019