Body reviews Pemra bill
ISLAMABAD, July 12 2006: The Mediation Committee of Parliament on July 11 reviewed the controversial Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Amendment Bill. The committee meeting was presided over by Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi. The committee reviewed different clauses of the bill. It was decided on the occasion to invite all stakeholders to the next meeting of the committee scheduled for July 20.
The committee last time met on May 31, after which it was reported in a section of press that the committee had “approved unanimously” the Pemra Amendment Bill with some amendments and the bill would now be tabled in the parliament for final approval. The previous meeting was attended by only four members, out of total 16, whereas under the rules, the bill could not be passed by the mediation committee without the simple majority of the members of each of the two houses. Federal Minister for Information Mohammad Ali Durrani had also attended the meeting on special invitation.
Opposition Leader in the Senate Raza Rabbani, who is also a member of the mediation committee, strongly protested over the reports that the bill had been passed by the committee without fulfilling the legal requirements. Mr Rabbani also held a press conference last month and demanded that the bill should once again be presented before the committee. It may be mentioned that the Pemra (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the National Assembly by the government in October 2004 and was transmitted to the Senate in 2005 after its passage from the lower house. However, the bill lapsed as the Senate failed to pass it in the mandatory 90 days due to the inclusion of some controversial clauses in the bill. Consequently, the bill was referred to the Parliamentary Mediation Committee for review. The bill again lapsed when the Mediation Committee also failed to approve changes in the bill in 90 days.
Later, the committee was reconstituted under the law to take up the bill for review.
The journalists’ bodies have rejected the Pemra Amendment Bill due to the inclusion of some clauses in it giving absolute powers to the police to take action against broadcasters for running programmes against the national interests or cultural values. The journalists’ bodies believed that these clauses could be misused to gag the press and that the bill was against the freedom of press.