Decision to clear dues reflects government commitment to free press: All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Decision to clear dues reflects government commitment to free press: All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS)

KARACHI- The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) appreciated the sanction of a record grant of Rs 174 million by the federal government to clear the long outstanding dues of member publications in a very short period, and hoped that the information ministry would disburse the payments before Eid setting aside the procedural impediments wherever possible, stated a press release by the society.

APNS Secretary-General Arshad A Zuberi stated that the society’s executive committee which met here its President Mir Shakilur Rahman in the chair, has expressed satisfaction that the long pending issue of the payment of overdue bills of newspapers and periodicals relating to government’s advertisements had, at last, been settled by the present government. “This appreciable decision to ensure financial viability of the press manifests the approach of the present government to protect freedom of the press, which has by now abided by its commitments of a free press,” he added.

The members appreciated the gesture of Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, Chief Executive’s Adviser on Information Javed Jabbar and Information Secretary Khawaja Ijaz Sarwar in this respect, and noted that this achievement became possible through the efforts of the APNS president. The members noted that since the publications had already submitted their bills and related documents, it would be cumbersome for them to provide once again the papers relating to very old periods.

Further the PID had already paid 40 per cent of these dues in late 1997 which suggested that the PID possessed the claimed bills and it paid the above amount after due verification. The members pointed out that since the grant had been sanctioned on an APNS request, the priority should be given to the claims of APNS members for the period up to December 31, 1999.

The members thoroughly deliberated on the issue of the formation of the press council and observed that the press council was meant to address the grievances and complaints of the public at large against the press and was required to protect the right of the citizens of the country enshrined in the article 19 of the constitution. The council, therefore, should act as a forum to ensure accountability of the print media and not to be controlled by the government or publishers and editors of newspapers.

They opined that the council should be formed taking into account the style and pattern of the press council in other countries. The members also observed the press council should be structured in such a manner that it became a highly representative and creditable body to help the country usher in a civilised society. It should comprise representatives of different sections of the society, including publishers, journalists, editors, lawyers, legislators etc nominated by their respective professional organisations.

The executive committee urged the government, to enact the long pending Freedom of Information Act along with the related press laws without delay. The executive committee decided to finalise the draft press council act in consultation with the CPNE, and formed a committee under Mir Shakilur Rahman, comprising Mahmudul Aziz, Dr Jabbar Khattak and Arshad A Zuberi to accomplish the task within 10 days.

The members noted with concern that the information departments of NWFP, Sindh and the Punjab had arbitrarily delisted several APNS members without assigning any reason.

The APNS called upon the provincial governments that before delisted any publication from the approved media list, the APNS should be duly consulted and the APNS should be provided a clearly defined criterion of listing on media list to ensure transparency of the process. The members also noted that the provincial governments of NWFP, Punjab, and Sindh had curtailed the quantum of advertisements to many smaller and medium sized publications and in some cases the government advertisements were being denied to these publications on the whims and wishes of the officials of information departments.

The members noted that the officials of information departments had conducted raids on the offices of some newspapers, which practice should be stopped forthwith and no action against any APNS member publication should be taken without prior consultations.

The executive committee also discussed the annual report for the 1999-2000 of the secretary-general and advised the members to send their suggestions before March 15, 2000 to the secretariat on the basis of which, the report would be finalised by the president and the APNS secretary-general. The members authorised the president to fix a date for the annual general meeting to be held in Karachi by the end of the month, so that it coincides with the 15th APNS award ceremony.

Mir Shakilur Rahman, President, Jamil Athar, Sr Vice President, Zia Shahid, Vice President, Arshad A Zuberi, Secretary-General, Waqar Yonsuf Azeenmi, Joint Secretary, Kazi Mohammad Asiam, Finance Secretary, Mumtaz A Tahir (Aftab), Dr Jabbar Khattak (Awami Awaz), Siddiq Baloch (Balochistan Express), Riaz A Mansuri (Cricketer) Shakil Masood (Dawn), Najmuddin Sheikh (Deyanat), Rai Fhrooq (Family Magazine), Kazi Asad Abid (Ibrat Magazine), Sharif Fbrooq (Jihad), Syed Shahid Hashmi (Daily Jasarat), Javed Mehr Shami (Kaleem), Aamir Mahmood (Kiran), Syed Sajjad Bokhari (Musawat), Hassan Poya (The Muslim), Mushtaq A Qureshi (Naey Ufaq), SM Munir Jillani (Paigham), Mujeebur Rahman Shami (Pakistan), Ilyas Shakir (Qaumi Akhbar), Khushnood Ali Khan (Sahafat), Altaf Hassan Qureshi (Urdu Digest), Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard (Wahdat), Mustafa Sadiq (Wifaq) and Masudah M Ahmed (The Teenager), attended the meeting.

Source: The News