KARACHI: The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE), have taken exception to caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s remarks where he described the print media’s business model as “absolutely flawed”.

In separate statements issued on Wednesday, the bodies said that the PM appears to be “ill-informed” as the print media is not seeking any grant or subsidy, rather contrary newspapers publish government ads at subsidised rates.

The caretaker premier, in response to a question at a presser on Tuesday, had sarcastically stated that the media wanted to fight for democracy and for press freedom, but for the resources needed to achieve these goals, they looked towards the government.

In response, both bodies reminded PM Kakar that the federal government owes almost Rs2 billion to newspapers towards payment of long-standing bills.

If the prime minister believes this business model is flawed, the APNS maintained, then the print media is prepared to correct it by withdrawing the subsidised rates being offered to the government by newspapers. Government advertising rates are far lower, at about one-fourth of commercial rates, it said.

Mr Kakar had also stated that the print media should not depend on the government for financial support and should generate revenue through its own resources.

Expressing great shock and disappointment over these remarks, the APNS pointed out that the PM had been asked about a pending summary of the Information Ministry for an increase in the government advertisement rates that had been announced by outgoing prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Calling the caretaker PM’s knowledge about media “flawed and incomplete”, the CPNE recalled that no magazines or newspapers had ever sought funds from any government or prime minister from their personal resources, rather every government and department needs media for their publicity. The money paid as bills for government advertisement is not owned by the rulers but it’s the taxpayers’ money that must be equitably distributed while giving ads.

It pointed out that during the Oct 12 meeting with the caretaker PM, a CPNE delegation had made it clear that it did not have any objection to the distribution of government ads.

However, the delegation had told the meeting that the increase in rates of government ads. as committed by the previous regime as well as an early payment of long-standing bills, were the responsibility of the government of the day.

Meanwhile, the National Press Club Islamabad also criticised PM Kakar’s attitude towards journalists.

In a statement, NPC president Anwar Raza and Secretary Khalil Raja condemned what they called his derisive attitude towards journalists and termed it against the freedom of expression, which cannot be accepted at any cost.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2023

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