ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Saturday restrictions were imposed on the media due to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's (PEMRA) order, during the PTI's era, they tried to bring the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority black law, which was opposed by all political parties and media organizations.
"PEMRA Amendment Bill 2023 is the bill not of the government, this is a bill of Pakistan, the people of Pakistan, the media and journalists, in which the rights of journalists are protected. It includes the representation of journalistic organizations, and they are empowered to make decisions”, the minister said while addressing a press conference here. She said that there were 140 channels licensed by PEMRA in Pakistan, among them 35 were news and current affairs channels, 52 entertainment channels, 25 regional channels, 6 non-commercial and education channels, 5 sports channels, 7 health and agro channels, and 10 education commercial channels.
The minister said that PEMRA Ordinance was promulgated in 2002 and now in 2023, the media landscape had changed and it become so diverse.
“We are all going through a new era of social media where new platforms have been introduced to express opinions, all these channels are present on cyberspace and social media”, she added.
Marriyum said that during the last four years of PTI, there was censorship on the media and the former Prime Minister Imran Khan got the title of “media predator”, adding the title was not given to him by his political rivals or any organization of Pakistan, but by international journalistic organizations keeping in view the freedom of expression in Pakistan.
At that time, the programs running at that time were stopped, journalists and news channels were banned, she added. She said that in the past, firing was done on journalists, they were kidnapped and tortured , their programs were stopped and they were sent to jails. Citing the example of Mir Shakeel- ur-Rehman, she said that he was arrested in a case in which everyone had now been acquitted. By sending him to jail in the NAB case, Imran Khan gave a message that if he could go to jail, then other media house owners and journalists could also be prosecuted, she opined.
The minister said during PTI’s tenure, the then information minister used to slap journalists, he used to threaten journalists and media organizations to support the draconian PMDA law.
Marriyum said that last year, when she was appointed Minister of Information, she held first meeting with the Joint Action Committee on 23rd April 2022.
Representatives of PBA, APNS, CPNE, AMEND and PFUJ were included in the joint action committee. The minister said that the laws regarding the rights of journalists, ethical media, media responsibilities and fake news within the regulatory bodies in many countries of the world were reviewed. She said she was thankful to all these organizations that assisted her in preparing the PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023. She said they guided her how to take steps to protect the rights of media workers and establish a responsible media.
Marriyum said that the Joint Action Committee held several meetings over the course of 11 months for consultations with all stakeholders on the bill.
The minister said that the existing laws regarding the rights of journalists, ethical media, responsibilities of the media and fake news within the regulatory bodies in many countries of the world were reviewed, and PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023 contained international best practices. She said that for the first time the definition of disinformation and misinformation had been included in the PEMRA law with the support of all media organizations. “We clarified the difference between misinformation and disinformation in the bill”, she said. Marriyum said that Implementation Tribal for Newspaper Employees existed for print media, but there was no forum to protect the rights of electronic media employee who were dismissed from jobs on political grounds. She said that all stakeholders joined hands to protect the rights of journalists and media workers. The minister said that the PEMRA amendment bill was made in light of the resolutions approved by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and in consultation with journalists and clauses were added in this bill considering the existing media laws in the countries of Great Britain, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, France, India, Brazil, Russia, European Union, and Australia.
She said that the bill was prepared according to the resolutions of the UN Human Rights Committee. “Today some people are worried how this bill was finalised in consultation with media.” she added. “The media itself has determined its responsibility in this bill and those criticizing the bill have not read it,” she said. Regarding the amendments in PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023, the minister said that a comparative review of this bill had been done. On this occasion, the minister also showed the media a comparative review of PEMRA Ordinance 2002 and PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023. Marriyam said that the PEMRA Amendment Bill represented a significant step towards empowering the media and safeguarding the rights of journalists in Pakistan. The bill included several key provisions that aimed to enhance the role and independence of the media while providing necessary protections to journalists, she said while addressing a press conference here.
The minister emphasized that the PEMRA Amendment Bill was a collaborative process involving not only the government but also media workers representatives, media organisations and the public. She emphasized the significance of a united endeavor to safeguard journalists’ rights in Pakistan. The minister mentioned that the PEMRA Amendment Bill was meticulously developed in consultation with both the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and journalists themselves. The primary goal of this bill , she added was to ensure the protection of journalists’ rights across the entire country. The PEMRA Amendment Bill aim was to protect journalists’ rights through consultation with both the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and journalists themselves. “One positive change in the PEMRA bill grants the media opportunity to have a say in the authority’s decisions.