Govt to revise Information Act: Shaheedi -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Govt to revise Information Act: Shaheedi

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Information and Technology Federal Secretary Akram Shaheedi has said the Freedom of Information Act is going to be revised according to the demands of freedom of media and the democracy.

In an exclusive interview with The Post, he said the role of Information and Broadcasting Ministry was not that of a regulator but to create a free environment for the media. He said all the stakeholders have been discussing the matter while the ordinance in this regard would soon be tabled in the cabinet meeting. He said the freedom of media will be ensured while there was no question of putting restrictions on the freedom of expression.

Commenting on the role of media, he said negative news about Pakistan were pouring in from everywhere before Feb 18 elections but the situation had considerably changed after the democratic setup came into place. The development of electronic media in the country had decreased the dependence on the foreign media and all the breaking news were timely available to the masses through local media, he added. He said the government will utilise all its resources for the development in media sector since it was necessary for good governance, transparent accountability and true democracy.

To a question, he said reports regarding putting of restrictions on media by the current government were baseless since the new government had lifted all restrictions of November 3 while a bill was also presented to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. He said the government was consulting all the parties as far as the Freedom of Information Act was concerned. There were many ambiguities in the information act of 2002 as any person seeking some information could be turned away by the presiding government officer on the basis that the information was classified, he added. He said the new Freedom of Information Act would be formulated to serve the purpose in true spirits. He said they wanted the fresh information act to be tabled in the next cabinet session and then forwarded to the National Assembly after being accepted by the Federal Cabinet.

Akram Shaheedi said all journalist organizations were being consulted for devising the code of conduct for the media as the government wanted the media to practice self regulation. He said Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television were both government institutions that were trying hard to fulfil the social and political needs of the country. He said both the institutions were projecting not only the government but also the opposition, a practice non existent in the past. Even the opposition leaders were now being invited to the programmes where they criticize the policies of the government, he added. The freedom of expression is part of the democracy, he said.

He also appreciated the vital role being played by the private TV channels in this regard. He said Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television were capable enough to complete the private TV channels. He said the government had given complete freedom to the state owned media which would enlighten the masses and strengthen democracy. He said the local media was dependent on the foreign media in the past but now all national and international news were timely available to the masses. Commenting on the role of media in building the image of the country he said the process had become quite easy since democracy was the true identity of any country. Akram Saheedi further said the government would take all possible steps to ensure the development of media and welfare of the journalists. It was the strong will of this government to ensure freedom of expression that had helped the media perform its role in true spirits, he added.

He said Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman was taking personal interest in the promotions of the Information Group officers. Many officials have already been promoted from scale 18 to scale 19 while the others would also be promoted, he added. He said a few important decisions have been taken in this regard while the Establishment Division had been asked to bring forward the details of these decisions as early as possible.
Source: The Post
Date:9/19/2008