ISLAMABAD   -  Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Saturday said the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan fully believed in fundamental, democratic and constitutional right of freedom of expression.  

Development of the media and welfare of journalists were among the government’s top priorities, he said while talking to the office-bearers of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad press clubs during a virtual meeting. 

The protection of state interests should be the first and foremost priority for all, the minister stressed. The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, National Press Club Islamabad President Shakeel Anjum and Secretary Anwar Raza, and presidents of Lahore and Karachi press clubs Arshad Ansari and Fazil Jamili, Principal Information Officer Sohail Ali Khan and directors general of Lahore and Karachi regional offices of Press Information Department. The approval of Journalists Protection Bill, security of journalists, and protection and welfare of their rights came under discussion during the meeting. The procedure for inclusion of journalists in the Prime Minister’s Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and issues of press clubs were also discussed.

The Information Minister said the approval of the Journalists Protection Bill was a great step forward for the security of journalists, protection of their rights and welfare.

 Under the bill, he said, the journalists could not be asked about the source of news and the respective media houses would be responsible for their safety. 

It had been made mandatory for the media houses to provide security equipment to the journalists and media workers sent for coverage in conflict zones, he added.

Fawad said steps had been taken to ensure payment of dues to the media houses. Over Rs 340 million had been made in last 15 days, whereas cheques of Rs 150 million would be issued to the media houses immediately after Eidul Fitr.

On the occasion, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, he said, the government would be in constant touch with the press clubs and journalists’ organizations. The government wants to provide housing facilities to the journalists and the press clubs should formulate procedures and criteria in that regard, he added. 

Fawad said plans were under consideration to prepare a mechanism for provision of loans to young journalists under the Kamyab Jawan programme.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State Farrukh Habib said the PTI government was committed to the welfare of journalists and finding solution to their problems. He would start touring press clubs immediately after the Eid, he added.

During the meeting, the officials of press clubs appreciated the personal efforts of Information Minister for the approval of Journalists Protection Bill.  They assured their full cooperation in the completion of the important legislative process.

The minister directed the authorities concerned to ensure immediate assistance to the families of those journalists and media workers died and affected by the coronavirus outbreak.