APNS resents Rashid's statement -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

APNS resents Rashid’s statement

KARACHI – The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) has expressed strong concern and resentment on the increased hostility of the federal information ministry towards the press which it termed as dangerous for the future of a free press and democratic dispensation in the country.

The APNS spokesman in a statement issued on June 1 reacted sharply to the statement issued by Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on the floor of the House regarding wage board matters.

He termed the information minister’s statement as another crude attempt on his part to mislead the parliamentarians and the public at large 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 Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

On the contrary, before Sheikh Rashid was inducted as minister, the information ministry had supported the APNS point of view on the wage board.

Secretary-general of APNS 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 information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

The members were unanimously of the opinion that the backdoor attempts were being made by the information ministry to traverse the vital tenet of 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 General 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 citizen rights.

The APNS and the CPNE after a protracted struggle were successful in arriving 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 Sheikh 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 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.

It 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-e-Waqt and The Nation to dictate its policy but is also trying to curb the press freedom through a plethora of press advises.

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 one, as a tool for arm-twisting of the dissenting press, which is manifested by the threat of the information minister to link the govt advertising 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 the 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.

The executive committee of the APNS in another resolution has condemned the administrative action of the Sindh government to ban five Karachi-based evening newspapers without going through the process as prescribed in the related 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.

But, it is equally opposed to the administrative actions by the government, which may help bureaucrats to curb the dissenting press.

The executive committee reviewed the performance of the media buying houses and formed a sub-committee to suggest suitable amendments in the rules to improve the functioning of the media buying practices in the industry.

The meeting was attended by the following: Arif Nizami, President (Nawa-e-Waqt), Syed Faseih Iqbal, Senior Vice President (Balochistan Times), Mohammad Aslam Kazi, Secretary General (Kawish), Mushtaq A. Qureshi, Joint Secretary (Naey Ufaq), Waqar Yousuf Azeemi, Finance Secretary (Roohani Digest), Wasim Ahmad (Awam, Quetta), Dr. Jabbar Khattak (Awami Awaz), Arshad A. Zuberi (Business Recorder), Abdul Rashid Ghazi (Business Report), Hameed Haroon (Dawn), Masood Hamid (Dawn), Syed Sarmad Ali (Jang), Naimuddin Sheikh (Deyanat), Iqbal Sidhu (Din), Ms. Qudsia Khan (Financial Post), Kazi Asad Abid (Ibrat), Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah (Kainat), Javed Mehr Shamsi (Kaleem), Zia Shahid (Khabrain), Aamir Mehmood (Kiran), Inquilab Matri (Millat Gujrati), Syed Sajjad Bokhari (Mussawat), Muhammad Ibrahim Ghauri (Mystery), S.M. Munir Jillani (Paigham), Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami (Pakistan), Ilyas Shakir (Qaumi Akhbar), Khushnood Ali Khan (Sahafat), Khalid Mehmood Shah (Shahrag-e-Pakistan), Riaz Ahmed Mansuri (The Cricketer), Jamil Ather (Tijarat), Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard (Wahdat) and Mustafa Sadiq (Wifaq).

Abid Abdullah (Express) and Sharif Farooq (Jehad) attended the meeting as special observers.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:6/2/2004