KARACHI: The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) expressed concern on Sunday over a directive by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (Pemra) regarding reporting of the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) activities, terming it a violation of the canons of press freedom and free speech.

According to a press release issued after a meeting of its standing committee, the CPNE criticised the regulator for barring television channels from airing analyses and comments regarding NAB’s activities in their current affairs programmes and news bulletins.

The meeting was chaired by Arif Nizami, the council’s president. It was attended, among others, by Secretary General Dr Jabbar Khattak, vice presidents Sardar Khan Niazi, Irshad Ahmed Arif, Dr Hafiz Sanaullah Khan, Deputy Secretary General Aamer Mahmood and a former secretary general, Aijazul Haq.

The CPNE described the Pemra directive as a grave violation of Article 19 and sub-clause 19-A of the Constitution, which guarantee the right to information.

The meeting described the federal government’s “unceasing attempts to stifle the media” as ominous. The participants reviewed the state of press freedom, the difficulties being faced by newspapers and the new payment system for advertisements adopted by the government through CPNE efforts.

The CPNE expressed satisfaction over the new mechanism worked out by the federal government, as well as the governments of Sindh, Punjab and Pakhtunkhawa, for payment of outstanding dues to newspapers.

The meeting resolved that CPNE would resist attempts to amend the new mode of payment. “Opponents of the new media-friendly system of payments wish to bring back the previous corrupt practices, whereby billions of rupees from the public exchequer allocated for the media were rerouted to the coffers of corrupt elements. These practices landed the media in financial crisis.”

Irshad Ahmed Arif, the council’s vice president, told the meeting the CPNE had sent its proposals about the Punjab Publications Bill to the provincial government.

Joint Secretary Tahir Farooq said payments should be made in time so that newspapers and journalists did not face financial uncertainties. He called upon the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to abolish the Kepra tax on newspapers.

Joint Secretary Ghulam Nabi Chandio voiced concern over delay in clearance of dues by the Sindh government and “an unjust distribution of government advertisements”. The standing committee, on the recommendations of provincial committees, approved a number of membership requests.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021

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