ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Saturday said the government fully believed in the freedom of expression.

Development of the media and welfare of journalists were among the government’s top priorities, he said while talking to the office-bearers of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad press clubs during a virtual meeting.

The protection of state interests should be the first and foremost priority for all, the minister stressed.

The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, National Press Club Islamabad President Shakeel Anjum and Secretary Anwar Raza, and presidents of Lahore and Karachi press clubs Arshad Ansari and Fazil Jamili, Principal Information Officer Sohail Ali Khan and directors general of Lahore and Karachi regional offices of Press Information Department.

The approval of Journalists Protection Bill, security of journalists, and protection and welfare of their rights came under discussion during the meeting. The procedure for inclusion of journalists in the Prime Minister’s Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and issues of press clubs were also discussed.

The Information Minister said the approval of the Journalists Protection Bill was a great step forward for the security of journalists, protection of their rights and welfare.

Under the bill, he said, the journalists could not be asked about the source of news and the respective media houses would be responsible for their safety.

It had been made mandatory for the media houses to provide security equipment to the journalists and media workers sent for coverage in conflict zones, he added.

Fawad said steps had been taken to ensure payment of dues to the media houses. Over Rs340 million had been made in last 15 days, whereas cheques of Rs150 million would be issued to the media houses immediately after Eidul Fitr.

Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, he said, would be in constant touch with the press clubs and journalists’ organizations.

The government wanted to provide housing facilities to the journalists and the press clubs should formulate procedures and criteria in that regard, he added.

Fawad said plans were under consideration to prepare a mechanism for provision of loans to the young journalists under the Kamyab Jawan programme.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State Farrukh Habib said the PTI government was committed to the welfare of journalists and finding solution to their problems.

He would start touring press clubs immediately after the Eid, he added.

During the meeting, the officials of press clubs appreciated the personal efforts of Information Minister for the approval of Journalists Protection Bill.

They assured their full cooperation in the completion of the important legislative process.

They thanked the minister for inviting them to the virtual meeting, saying such meetings would be effective in resolving the issues being faced by the journalists.

They also highlighted the plight of those affected by the corona pandemic and other issues.

The minister directed the authorities concerned to ensure immediate assistance to the families of those journalists and media workers died and affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2021

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