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ISLAMABAD, April 16: President Asif Ali Zardari asked the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) on Monday to look into the issue of payment of salary to workers and journalists, besides implementation of the seventh Wage Board award and setting up of the eighth wage board.

Addressing the 22nd APNS award ceremony at the Aiwan-i-Sadr, the president said the government recognised and respected the critical role of the media in promoting democracy, adding that an independent media was a guarantor of human rights, freedom and liberty.

According to an official handout, Mr Zardari said record of this government in upholding freedom of the media and tolerance of dissent spoke for itself.

About the government’s policy of reconciliation and tolerance, the president said: “We have endured even a campaign of slander, but we have as a matter of policy decided to let the people judge for themselves. Let them judge whether we have been justly criticised or subjected to slander.

“We have decided not to be provoked and will not be provoked in future. We have not taken any action against anyone and will continue with the same.”

President Zardari said “undemocratic elements” had targeted the PPP-led government and tried to belittle its achievements and discredit the party. He said that at times PPP leaders had been subjected to character-assassination and now the prime minister and members of his family were the target of a ‘smear campaign’.

The president said the government was conscious of problems, including energy shortage.

APP adds: President Zardari distributed prizes among journalists, advertisers and members of the APNS for their outstanding contributions.

Those who got the 22nd APNS awards in journalism are: Nadeem Mehmood (best investigative reporter), Razia Fareed (best environmental reporter), Mubarak Zeb Khan (best business reporter), Zohra Yusuf (best column, English), Syed Sardar Ahmed Pirzada (best column, Urdu), Ashfaq Azar (best column, regional language), Maqbool Ahmed (best feature, English), Aqeel Abass Jafiri (best feature, Urdu), Wahid Paras Hisbani (best story, regional), Umer Farooq (best cover story), M. Zahid Rehman (best photographer) and Murad Ali Shah Bukeral (best cartoon).

Midas (Pvt) Limited, Orient Advertising, Adcom, Synergy Advertising and Spectrum Communications received the best awards for advertisement in different categories.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Public Relations was given to Principal Information Officer Muhammad Saleem. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard, Masood Ahmed Barkati, late Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Maqsood Hussain Shah and Ziauddin T. Kissat.