APNS rejects four contentions in ministry’s freedom of press rejoinder
KARACHI- All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) Secretary General Mohammed Aslam Kazi has cautioned the Federal Information Ministry to abandon their policy of playing, “ducks and drakes” with respect to the emergence of free press in Pakistan.
He said that at this critical juncture in the evolution of democratic institutions, it was necessary to strictly avoid demagoguery and meaningless rhetorical flourishes, and instead replace them with positive and discernible actions that can slay the foundations of a freer press.
The statement released by the secretary general has rejected four key contentions in July 31, 2003 freedom of the press rejoinder issued by the Information Ministry. The statement reads as follows:
“I wish to clearly state for record four key misrepresentations made by the spokesman of the Ministry of Information in his rejoinder to our statement of July 31, 2003.
1. The Ministry of Information has not settled the matter with respect to new press laws issued in November 2002 by the pre-democratic transitional administration.
Specifically in the meeting of November 7, 2002 wide ranging amendments in the Freedom of Information Law were proposed by the representatives of the APNS and the CPNE.
Almost 10 months later, the Cabinet Division and the Ministry of Information have been unable to provide the promised amendments in the rules.
Furthermore, the proposed amendments that could not be brought under the rule, such as the four sub-sections of the notorious Section-8 of the law, which specifically relate to umbrella exclusion of records from public purview, that the public and the media have a democratic right to have access to, were to be amended through an ordinance subsequent to discussions at a meeting to be held two weeks after the elections.
No such meeting was held and the record of broken promises speaks itself.
2. Contrary to the ministry’s contention, the APNS has not been taken into confidence by the ministry in formulating the panel of names for the office of chairman of the Press Council.
3. It is regrettable that in defence of the federal Information Ministry’s reinvigorated centralised advertisement released policy, the spokesman has confessed to the reaffirmation of previous centralised advertisement policy that was a brain child of Ayub Khan’s Martial Law and was issued concurrently with notorious Political Parties Act and Press and Public Ordinance in 1963.
How can the ministry purportedly functioning today under a democratic dispensation wax eloquent about a centralised advertisement policy that was used to bloody the press with a stick from the draconian Ayub Khan’s Martial Law and reiterated once again by a serving General-cum-Information Secretary under General Zia’s equally draconian Martial Law?
4. The Ministry of Information should concentrate on its ostensible task of removing impediments to the free flow of information in the new democratic dispensation, instead of holding caucuses with conspiring publishers and editors that seek to destabilise the CPNE which is a professional editors body.
The APNS is fully committed to the defence of the CPNE and indeed is fervent follower in the matter of implementing an independent and freer press.
The APNS calls upon the president and the prime minister of Pakistan to instruct the federal Information Ministry to desist from playing this divisive and negative role and advise the minister to sit down with the APNS and the CPNE and resolve contentious issues that pollute press-government relations rather than being a party to efforts to undermine and destabilise the representative organisations of free press in Pakistan by patronising dummy organisations.
Source: Business Recorder