Jabbar for legislation on press freedom
LAHORE- Javed Jabbar, advisor to the Chief Executive on the media and national affairs said I that the government would not use the Provincial Constitutional Order (PCO) as a tool to undermine judiciary which was free to work in close proximity of the constitution. The Advisor also said that democracy could not be restored at once but in stages.
He was addressing a seminar on media laws held by the Lahore Press Club in collaboration with the British Council. Purpose of the seminar was to review the laws affecting freedom of the media in the country.
Javed Jabbar said the media and judiciary are watchdogs of public interest and added that the government has decided to give the right of freedom of expression to the media but there must be some legislation in this regard. He continued that there should be a forum for the media to introduce a system of cheek and balance particularly to avoid defamation, disinformation and distortion.
Stressing the need of self-regulation the advisor said that press could not be expected to be tbe judge and the executioner at the same time. He asked newspaper organisations to sit together to decide modalities of the press council. He suggested inclusion of citizens in the council, as it would redress their grievances against wrong reporting.
Talking about access to information Javed Jabbar said the government was very lenient on this issue however, some things are assumed as State secret and keeping in view the national interest such information could not be passed on, he added.
Speaking on the occasion Punjab Minister for information Shafqat Mahmood said that the present government the stood for the free flow of information and there was no need of special laws particularly for media as the constitution of Pakistan was effective enough to cover all the corners of the society.
At the concluding session some recommendations aiming to ensure the freedom of expression were formulated by Mazhar Abbas, Professor Humayun Ehsan and Attaul Musawar Pirzada.
Recommendations: -All the draconian laws relating to press, such as parts of the Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and special laws should be abolished and that the discriminatory application of restrictive laws such as the Maintenance of Public Order laws should end.
b. Increased tendency of violence against journalists should be curbed through stringent laws. Where necessary, relevant laws should be amended for this purpose.
c. The proposed draft of the Access to Information Act, 1996, should be promulgated without further delay.
d. The office of editor should be open only to professional journalists having an experience of not less than 10 years.
e. The government must ensure full and thorough implementation of the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973.
f. The use of government advertisements as political leverage should be stopped. Availability of these advertisements should be linked to continued implementation of the Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973, and relevant labour laws.
g. The proposed establishment of a press council under the auspices of the Council of Newspaper Editors will marginalize the role of working journalists. All regulation of the profession must be by institutions evolved by the journalists themselves.
Electronic media and the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) should be freed of’ state control. The management of APP should be handed over to a trust comprising senior journalists, private radio and television channels should be allowed to produce and present independent news and current affairs programmes.
Source: The Nation