KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was informed on Wednesday that as many as 737 publications, including 416 daily newspapers, were registered with the provincial information department.

Furnishing a statement and replies to lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during Question Hour, Information Minister Saeed Ghani said that as many as 100 weekly magazines, 28 fortnightlies and 179 monthlies were among the registered publications.

In reply to a written question asked by Grand Democratic Alliance member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, he repudiated the allegation that the government advertisements were being placed with specific media groups and said that they were released to newspapers in accordance with the criteria prescribed in the Advertisement Policy 2015.

To a verbal question by Mr Jatoi, the minister said that the government advertisements were placed in newspapers both directly and through advertisement agencies.

Govt move for cancellation of declaration of 74 dummy newspapers under way

He said that the advertisement agencies’ commission on government ads was 15 per cent.

The minister said that no one was employed in the information and archives department from July 2017 to June 2018, except for eight persons who were family members of deceased employees.

In reply to another question by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf member Saeed Ahmed, he dispelled the impression that the Directorate of Archives was not paying salaries to its employees.

He said that all the employees were being paid on time.

To a verbal query, the minister said that at present, more than 750 newspapers were on the media list, so it was not possible to release advertisements to all the newspapers daily.

“However, the information department tries to ensure that the advertisements are being issued to small and regional publications along with big media houses so as to ensure that they also sustain their publications,” he added.

At present, he said, the information department was releasing advertisements to more than 200 newspapers.

In response to another verbal question, Mr Ghani said that mostly the advertisements were being released directly to the print media, while in case of the electronic media, owing to unavailability of resources the advertisements were first being designed by an advertising agency and then these advertisements were being released to the electronic media.

He said that the policy was very clear about the advertisements being issued through an advertising agency to the electronic media.

Issuance of newspapers’ declaration DCs’ job

To a supplementary question, the minister informed the lawmakers that the declaration to the newspapers was being issued by the office of deputy commissioner concerned and not by the information department.

In addition, he added that the ABC certification and inclusion in the central media list was being permitted by the federal government.

He said that the deputy commissioner concerned had the authority to issue a declaration to the newspaper or cancel it.

To a verbal question, the minister said that proceedings against dummy newspapers were under way and that the letters for cancellation of declaration of 74 dummy newspapers had been sent to the DCs of various districts from the information department.

The minister also stated that the second instalment of payments would not be paid to all those media houses which had not yet paid salaries to their employees.

He said that the problem of sacking of journalists from their jobs as well as of undue delay in payment of their salaries across the country had arisen in the last seven to eight months.

“The main reason for this particular suffering of the journalists is the federal government’s failed economic policies,” he added.

Mr Ghani also expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the death of journalist S.M. Irfan, a reporter with News One TV, and requested the organisation to ensure timely payment to its employees.

He also requested the management of News One to financially support Irfan’s family.

Separately, he said that since 2016, when the National Accountability Bureau initiated an investigation against the information department, the payment to media houses suffered a delay and consequently the media houses were facing financial problems.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019