Pemra bill okayed with last-minute changes

Published August 10, 2023
Infor­ma­tion Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb is pictured during Wednesday’s National Assembly session. — Photo courtesy: NA Facebook
Infor­ma­tion Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb is pictured during Wednesday’s National Assembly session. — Photo courtesy: NA Facebook

ISLAMABAD: On the last day of its tenure, the coalition government on Wednesday finally managed to obtain approval for the crucial Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) bill, with some last-minute changes separately from both houses of parliament, bringing rejoice to electronic media workers.

National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf put the bill to the house for approval hours after its passage from the Senate, which witnessed a heated exchange of arguments between Infor­ma­tion Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and opposition members.

The last three days saw strong lobbying by supporters of the bill, including journalists, media workers, and their representative bodies. This came after the minister’s announcement to withdraw the proposed draft when some senior anchorpersons opposed it in the meeting of the Senate committee on information, headed by Fawzia Arshad of the opposition PTI.

The opposition members and committee’s chairperson opposed the government’s move to bring the legislation for a vote following the minister’s act of withdrawing it in the committee.

The minister, however, forcefully explained the circumstances forcing her to withdraw the bill and said that with the consultation of the stakeholders, including PFUJ, APNS, PBA, Amend, Apnec and CPNE, she had decided to seek approval of the bill with two amendments, including the one related to the appointment of Pemra chairman through the parliament.

The opposition members were of the view that the bill should again be referred to the committee with the new amendments. However, the information minister and the law ministers urged the chairman to put the law for a vote since it was the last day of the National Assembly.

Controversy had arisen due to a power play between some anchorpersons and their supporters, against a vast majority of journalists representing the PFUJ, Parliamentary Reporters Association, who were supporting the bill.

Ms Aurangzeb, while presenting the bill in the Senate, narrated the ordeal and bashing she faced on social media and from some electronic media outlets, who were terming the Pemra amendment bill as a “black law”.

After the debates she also slammed the PTI senators and asked, “If you are so much interested in welfare of media workers and freedom of information, where were you when the controversial PMDA Bill was being passed, did you ever take part in any struggle and protest by media workers?”

According to Ms Aurangzeb, the terms of misinformation and disinformation were incorporated in the bill after consultations and these terms “misinformation” and “disinformation” were refined after thoroughly consulting the interpretations of these words used in 12 countries.

The information minister also highlighted that to safeguard the rights of newspaper employees the Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) has managed to recover Rs140 million within nine months, facilitating employee salary payments, and where the recoveries were difficult the payment has been made directly to the suffering employees by the PID from the advertisement bills of those newspapers.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2023

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