ISLAMABAD: The prime minister has established a committee to address challenges faced by the media and journalists, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information, said on Friday.

Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House, the special assistant said an information commission had already been established and the government believed in freedom of expression as there was no hurdles in the way of freedom of expression in Pakistan.

Since the special assistant is not a parliamentarian, she cannot respond to any query on the floor of the National Assembly or the Senate.

Her media talk focused on a speech by PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb in the National Assembly in which she berated the government for “vilifying the opposition”, especially the bigwigs of her party.

Ms Aurangzeb had a shouting match with Ali Mohammad Khan, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, after she put a question about the fate of the ‘Right to Information (RTI) Bill’, which proposed the formation of an information commission.

The minister parried the query and suggested Ms Aurangzeb come up with a fresh question, sparking a torrent of invective from the latter.

Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan tried to clarify the matter in her interaction with the media.

“An incorrect impression has been created among the diplomatic community, and inside the country as well, that Pakistan is not a safe country for journalists and media is being gagged by the government,” the special assistant said. “This is poisonous propaganda.”

The special assistant made sarcastic remarks about Marriyum Aurangzeb: “One of our colleagues in parliament used the august house to make a false statement about the information commission.

“We can only say for enlightenment of the former information minister that the commission has already been formed in November last year. It has received 215 RTI applications and 100 of them have been resolved.”

She further said Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a high-powered committee comprising representatives of media bodies, Pakis­tan Electronic Media Regulatory Au­­t­hority and other stakeholders to res­olve issues pertaining to journalists.

Dr Awan said journalists would be invited to record their concerns with the committee and the government would certainly address them.

The special assistant said the government would do its best to bridge differences between the media workers and the owners of media houses.

“The government is committed to resolving issues related to outstanding dues of media houses regarding advertisements, but we want the media houses to clear salaries of their workers as well.”

She added that the prime minister had decided to set up a committee to resolve the matter by taking all stakeholders into confidence.

The committee will be headed by Imran Khan himself while Dr Awan will be its coordinator.

It will include the chiefs of PFUJ, APNS, Pakistan Broadcasters Assoc­i­ation and any representative of CPNE.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019

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