ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday sought a report from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on steps taken to ensure free access of information while discouraging conflict of interest of the owners of media houses.

While hearing the petition of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah also asked Pemra for details of action taken against TV channels that were not disbursing salaries to employees on time.

The chief justice suggested Pemra that the regulator should cancel the licence of those who failed to compensate their employees. He asked the regulator how it kept a check to ensure job protection of independent journalists and told Pemra to make sure that licensed channels would not have to impose self-censorship.

Senior journalist Hamid Mir amicus curiae in this case told the court that some channels did not disburse salaries to the employees on time.

Media regulator told to file detailed report on journalists’ job protection, salaries

In reply to a court query, Pemra’s representative said that before awarding a TV licence, the regulator sought a number of documents related to financial strength and profiling of the applicant.

The court observed that Pemra’s job was to make sure that TV channels provide information, education and entertainment to viewers, but it was not the regulator’s job to weigh applicant’s business prospects for the award of a licence.

Meanwhile, Justice Minallah also took up the petition filed by Islamabad High Court Journalists Association seeking direction to the government to frame rules for journalists working in the electronic media.

The court issued notices to Pemra, the registrar of the Implementation Tribunal for Newspapers Employees, the federal government and information secretary.

Representing the petitioner, Barrister Umer Ijaz Gilani, argued that the Newspapers Employees Act, 1973 was introduced for the print media only. He requested the court to direct the federal government to frame such legislation for the electronic media also.

He further requested the court that until the new law was promulgated, the government might be asked to implement the Newspapers Employees Act, 1973 to determine salaries, perks and privileges of journalists working for TV channels.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2022

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