Firdous Ashiq Awan floats 'media courts' proposal with broadcasters' body

Updated 24 Jul 2019

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan addressing a press conference in Karachi on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. — DawnNewsTV
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan addressing a press conference in Karachi on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. — DawnNewsTV

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan on Wednesday floated the idea of "media courts" that will speedily resolve "issues" pertaining to the media industry.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi after a meeting with the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Awan said she had discussed the courts with PBA members.

She said that the proposed special courts will exclusively hear complaints by the media industry against the government as well as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and vice versa.

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SAPM Awan described media workers as "the backbone of the media industry". She said she had taken up the problems of media workers with the PBA and promised that under a new policy, the government will be playing the role of a bridge between media employees and employers.

The policy under consideration will ensure the rights and responsibilities of the two sides. In particular, she placed great stress on media owners ensuring that media workers are paid on time.

"We have handed over the draft document of the policy to the PBA for vetting," she said, adding that the rights of media workers and media houses will be protected under the new policy.

"The PBA communicated some complaints regarding the current regulator — Pemra. Being a mediator, I will ensure the resolution of all justified complaints," she said.

She added that the PBA will play an effective role in implementing the proposed policy.

Talking about social media, she said that it did not fall under the ambit of Pemra, "so we, after consultation with PBA, are going to take Pemra and others onboard" over regulating it.

"We are devising a mechanism for social media; the details will be shared at a later stage," she said.

She noted that Pemra had issued licences for 58 new channels, which not only helped the government generate Rs5 billion but also created employment opportunities in the media industry.

The special assistant further said that the government is going to introduce a media digitalisation policy to resolve the issue of "switchover" among channels on cable networks.

She also praised the PBA's role "against India in the media war".

CPNE rejects 'discriminatory media courts'

Meanwhile, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) while expressing "serious concerns" on the announcement, has rejected the proposal.

In a press release issued by the body of editors, CPNE President Arif Nizami and Secretary General Dr Jabbar Khattak said that "CPNE stands against any kind of discriminatory legislation and would oppose discriminator media law at all forums".

The statement also said that CPNE had already "rejected the draft of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority".

It went on to say that for the resolution of conflicts and issues, the Press Council of Pakistan, PEMRA's Commission of Complaints, Wage Board Implementation Tribunal, and other laws and forums are very much there.

CPNE office bearers feel that the formation of media courts is a discriminatory move and will be considered "an attack on media freedom" and would tantamount to "increased pressure on the media and journalists", said the statement.

It observed that the government should direct its efforts towards "strengthening democratic culture, media freedom and right to expression" instead of "creating obstacles" in the way of smooth functioning of the media.

"Pakistan media is already facing immense direct and indirect pressure in these days and it is the duty of government to take measures for easing the ongoing pressures whereas the affairs of media should be dealt as per existing laws," read the statement.

It concluded by demanding that the government withdraw the announcement "of discriminatory media courts' at the earliest.