ISLAMABAD: The federal information ministry has de-notified more than 6,000 publications after being identified as dummy papers. At the same time, the Office of Press Registrar, Ministry of Information, has given a deadline of April 15 to all presses printing newspapers to fulfil all regulatory requirements.
“The process of streamlining and mainstreaming the whole media industry was initiated by the last [PML-N] government,” said a senior official of the ministry, adding: “The basic target was to clear ambiguities and corruption in the whole chain as a large number of ministry employees too were part of this chain.”
Incidentally, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan had acknowledged in the Senate Standing Committee on Information that officers of her ministry were involved in disseminating advertisements to dummy publications of their choice. She had said that there were around 4,200 dailies and weeklies across the country registered with the Press Information Department (PID), having circulation of around 20 million, whereas the total number was much higher if all regional dailies and weeklies were counted.
Printing presses given April 15 deadline to fulfil all regulatory requirements
After examination of documents, the Office of Press Registrar has decided to update the list of printing presses operating in the country.
An official of the information ministry said there were two categories of dummy papers. The first one includes those who obtain a title of a paper and hold it to negotiate with some potential investor but do not go for the printing of the paper. The second category of dummy papers includes those publications that are printed only after getting advertisements and show dubious circulation figures.
“The best way to check such publications was streamlining their printing press, and the recent move has shown that some presses print a large number of papers but physical inspection showed that they do not even have such a capacity,” the official added.
The Press Registrar has already written letters to all deputy commissioners across the country to forward information related to presses where newspapers were being printed, under the “Press, Newspaper, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002”.
Since the subject has not been devolved, the law prevails across the country and the Press Registrar has also sought details of printing presses and in the first phase regulatory requirements of those presses where newspapers are printed would be updated.
“As per the law, all newspaper owners and publishers have to be registered; a news paper has to tell the registration authority the name and address of printing press where the publication is printed,” the ministry official said, adding: “The initial report shows that there is not a single printing press registered in Multan division, whereas there are more than 110 dailies and weeklies being published from there.”
Among other steps includes the filing of a quarterly report by the owners of printing presses that they are paying salaries to their employees and not printing any illegal material such as hate material or any publication that is not registered in the country.
Meanwhile, responding to Office of Press Registrar’s actions, the Pakistan Federal Union for Journalists has said eradication of dummy publications mismanagement in grant of government advertisements has been a demand of the PFUJ for a long time. “But our concern is that the move to streamline printing press should not carry any political motive or lead to suppression of media freedom,” PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020