ISLAMABAD - The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday passed “The Access of Media (Deaf and Dumb) Persons Bill 2022,” tabled by Senator Saleem Mandviwala as the first agenda item.

The bill is aimed at taking steps which would ensure special persons’ access to the media. The meeting was held with Senator Faisal Javed in chair. Senators Irfan Siddiqui, Aon Abbas Buppi, Anwar Lal Din and Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo attended the meeting. Senator Saleem Mandviwalla showed up as a mover. Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Chairman Pemra, Chairman Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) along with other officials were also in attendance. “The Access of Media (Deaf and Dumb) Persons Bill 2022”, tabled by Senator Saleem Mandviwala, was taken up as the first agenda item.

The Senator gave a short briefing about the bill. The Information Ministry and PEMRA Chairman didn’t question and objected to the bill, after which, with the consent of member senators the committee unanimously passed the bill. The Sponsor remarked that after consultation with the relevant entities the word “Dumb” had been taken back. Mandviwalla said the word “dumb” had been removed from the bill as some committee members had expressed reservations in that regard. He pointed out the growing sense of alienation among the special persons who could not watch dramas and listen to the news on television channels. Senator Irfan Siddiqui raised the matter of cutting down precious trees in the historic building of Radio Pakistan (RWP) which have been allegedly sold at a cheaper price. The report presented by DG PBC was nullified and rejected by Senator Siddiqui. After debating the matter, the Committee unanimously agreed and expressed its intent to call upon the Head Station (RWP), the National Environment Protection Agency and officials from the Environment protection unit of Punjab along with all details of the trees that have been cut down. DG PBC informed the Committee that 100 trees were auctioned amounting to 7 lac rupees due to the financial crisis faced by the corporation. Secretary Information and Broadcasting termed the auctioning a regular practice. The current shortfall of the corporation is Rs 22 million, the DG informed.

Information Ministry, PEMRA Chairman raise no objections to bill

The matter relating to the FIRs against renowned journalists and anchorpersons was also taken up in the committee. Anchorpersons Arshad Sharif and Imran Abbas appeared in person while anchorperson Sabir Shakir and Vice President, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) showed up via the Zoom app. Anchorpersons acquainted the committee with all the facts relating to their cases. Chairman Committee called this an attack on freedom of expression and directed the Ministry to expedite implementation process of the Journalist Protection Bill.

The chairman urged the Secretary of the Ministry to also engage the Interior Ministry on the matter and ensured the rights and protection of journalists. Senator Irfan Siddiqui underlined that he will, above party lines, stand by the journalists who were being victimised and targeted. Senator Faisal Javed remarked that the issue will be taken up in the next meeting of the committee, to be held next week. Senator Tahir Bizenjo suggested calling upon all the IGPs of the four provinces and providing details of the complainants.

Briefing by the DG PBC on the working and performance of the organisation and optimisation plan of all lands and buildings under the administrative control of Radio Pakistan in the country was recessed till the next meeting.