ISLAMABAD - A Bill to amend the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, was tabled in the National Assembly here on Friday. The Bill 'The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2008' was introduced by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ms Sherry Rehman, seeking revocation of the provisions inserted in the Ordinance XIII of 2002 on Nov. 3, 2007 after imposition of emergency in the country. The bill was later referred to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Information for completion of the formalities of transforming it into a law. Later, addressing a press conference at the Parliament House after the adjournment of the NA proceedings till Monday, Federal Minister for Information Sherry Rehman termed the tabling of the bill for repeal of draconian amendments introduced in PEMRA Ordinance a significant move toward the complete freedom of press. "Within two weeks of formation of the new Government, the bill to repeal the Draconian PEMRA laws has been tabled in the National Assembly and on completion of the formalities it will become a law," she added. She said that now the bill was referred to the NA Standing Committee on Information and assured the media persons access to the proceedings of the committee to make the whole exercise transparent. She said that by introducing the bill the Government had taken the first step toward materializing the policy of bringing about complete freedom of media as announced by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in his policy statement on March 29 after getting vote of confidence from NA that they would abolish all the Draconian laws that threatened coercive actions against the press and come in the way of a free press in Pakistan. Elaborating the amendments in PEMRA Ordinance, Sherry Rehman said the Draconian laws that threatened coercive action against the press would be removed through this bill to begin the process of providing for a free press in Pakistan. "This involves, as a first step, the withdrawal of the provisions of Ordinance XIII of 2002, inserted through Ordinance LXV of 2007 on 3rd November, 2007," she added. "In section 27, the owner of an offending broadcast station or Cable network was also made responsible, along with the operator - this is also being withdrawn. The amendment had increased the fine of Rs. one million to Rs. ten million for a licensee who contravenes the provisions of the PEMRA laws and has been given reasonable opportunity to show cause. The ten million fine is being reversed to one million again." "Through the amendment, the Authority (PEMRA) was empowered to revoke the Licence on violations by the Licensee - this is also being withdrawn. The 3rd November amendment also empowered the Authority/Chairman PEMRA to seize the equipment or seal the premises of a Licensee; and also close down the network of a licensee in a situation of emergency. This is also being withdrawn. By adding sub-section (2) in section 31,the live coverage of violence and conflict was prohibited - This sub-section is also being withdrawn," she said. "By amending section 33, a three-year imprisonment was added to ten million fine for the broadcast licensee or his representative who violates or abets violation of any PEMRA law. Similarly a cable TV operator, or his representative who commits such a wrong was to face one year imprisonment in addition to rupees five million fine - the imprisonment segment is being withdrawn. Offences under the PEMRA law were made cognizable and compoundable - this is being withdrawn," she concluded. She said that some TV channels were interrupted at Karachi by some cable operators recently and on inquiring they avoided to give any reason to the Government. "Though the PEMRA does not fall under the Ministry of Information, yet I took notice of the matter. However, we do not want to penalize the cable operators and rather a meeting of the PBA, cable operators and other stakeholders to resolve all such problems is called," she said. Condemning the torture against working journalists, the Minister said they had already ordered inquiry into the matter while in other such incidents of violence against media persons across the country probe would be held, and assured that the Government would establish its writ across the country. Ms Sherry said the Government would take initiatives to provide protection to the working journalists and a plan would be worked out by the Ministry to provide funds for the welfare of the families of those journalists who would be killed in line of their duty. "We will also make sure that this process is made transparent as the welfare of journalists is part of our agenda," she added. To a question that tabling of the PEMRA Bill in the National Assembly is tantamount to giving a constitutional cover to the unconstitutional acts of Nov. 3, 2007 and annoying President Musharraf, Ms Sherry said that the return of democracy and getting rid of Draconian laws would not annoy any individual. To another query, she said the PDA Government had decided not to launch 'witch-hunt' policy towards the government employees and added that it were the bureaucrats who had prepared the documents for repealing the Draconian amendments in PEMRA. "The bureaucracy has no agenda and it follows the directives of the political governments. However, the masses, Parliament and media would hold the employees accountable. We would conduct thorough audit and action would be taken against those responsible for misconduct," she said adding that action would be taken against those who would not follow the directives of the Government. However, she made it clear that no arbitrary action would be taken against any government employee. To another question she said that surely they would also annul the Draconian amendments made in the laws governing the print media and at the same time asked the media persons to strengthen their bodies as this would help them a lot in understanding the media persons problems. She urged the media persons to be patient as all the issues could not be resolved in a day and to give them time to fulfil the promises made with them and the whole nation.