APNS resents hostility towards Press -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

APNS resents hostility towards Press

KARACHI – The APNS has strongly reacted to the statement of Federal Information Minister, Shaikh Rashid Ahmed and termed it dangerous for the future of free press and democratic dispensation in the country.

A spokesman for the APNS said that federal minister’s statement on the floor of the National Assembly regarding Wage Board matters was an attempt to mislead the parliamentarians and the public by deliberately distorting facts.

The spokesman clarified that the APNS petition in the Supreme Court was not rejected but dismissed as it could not invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Further to state that the wage board issue was discussed by the minister with the APNS and the CPNE is travesty of facts as no dialogue on the matter has ever taken place with Shaikh Rashid Ahmed. On the contrary before Shaikh Rashid was inducted as minister, the information ministry had supported the APNS point of view on the Wage Board.

The Secretary General All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Muhammad Aslam Kazi stated that the Executive Committee which met under the Chairmanship of its President, Arif Nizami has noted with disdain the deterioration of press-government relations since the induction of the present federal information minister. The members were unanimously of the opinion that the backdoor attempts were being made by the information ministry to traverse the vital tenet of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Article 19, that guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of press.

The information ministry under Nisar Memon in October 2002, on the instruction of President Pervez Musharraf had agreed to resolve the issue of Press Laws after the installation of the elected government. But surprisingly, the agenda for major amendments to the Freedom of Information Ordinance and the Defamation Ordinance has been kept in the cold storage by the present information ministry as a blatant attempt to undermine the role of the press as a watchdog of the rights of the citizen of Pakistan.

The APNS and CPNE after a protracted struggle were successful in reaching at a consensus law on the Press Council of Pakistan but the formation of the Press Council has been deliberately avoided by the information ministry under Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, which is indicative of the negative motives of the ministry.

The attitude of the minister against the press was also reflected by his sudden insistence on his part to call for the implementation of the arbitrary unjust and inequitable Wage Award announced by the government-appointed wage board. The federal information minister has become a party to the issue as he wanted to pitch the employees against the publishers so as to create industrial dispute in the print media whereas the APNS is all for the welfare of newspaper employees but is of the firm view that market forces should determine their wages rather than an arbitrary award. The members of the executive committee also noted that the ministry has not only embarked on the policy of using advertisements as a lever against certain newspapers including Nawa-i-Waqt and The Nation to dictate its policy.

The APNS reiterated that it has always advocated deregulation and decentralisation of government advertisements as these are being used by successive governments including the present as a tool for arm-twisting of the dissenting press, which is manifested by the threat of information minister to link the govt advertisements with the Wage Board.

The executive committee has taken a serious note of the negative and divisive role of the information minister and decided not to participate in any meeting or have dialogue with the information ministry until it amends its attitude towards the APNS. The members also decided to apprise the president and prime minister on the present state of affairs and urge upon them to advise the minister to refrain from destroying the cordial relations of the press and the government.

In another resolution the committee condemned the action of the Sindh govt to ban five evening newspapers without going through the press laws. The APNS reiterates its resolve to promote a healthy, objective and responsible press in the country and condemns those black sheep, which were promoting yellow and black journalism.

The committee reviewed the performance of the media buying houses and formed a sub-committee to suggest suitable amendments to the rules to improve the functioning of the media buying practices in the industry.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:6/2/2004