Media team paying for PM’s China trip
By: Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leaves for China on Wednesday in a 12-seater jet, the media persons who will cover his visit are going to travel by commercial flights and pay for their trips for the first time.
There are six journalists from private media going to China, a trip that requires each person an estimated budget of $3,500 (Rs348 407), a calculation made by the Information Ministry.
The PM’s four-member delegation includes chief ministers of the Punjab and Balochistan as well as minister for planning and development. Only those officials are traveling with him who have some business to negotiate during the five-day visit.
As far as the journalists are concerned, this visit is a radical departure from the past practice when availing such trips would largely depend on the nature of their relationship in the power corridors. The Nawaz Sharif government slapped a ban on officially-sponsored trips of journalists a week before this China visit.
Issued by the press wing of the PM Office on June 27, the policy directive says: “It has been past practice to take private media persons on foreign visits along with the prime minister on state expense.
“This has not only generated a heated debate in media circles but also cast aspersions on the government’s endeavor to promote free and independent media. The same has also been a burden on the national exchequer.”
Keeping in view the above and to promote transparency and fair play besides giving effect to the austerity drive of the present government, the policy directive said, “It has been desired that private media persons will only be facilitated during the foreign visits on their own expenses.”
The government’s decision in this respect has disappointed those journalists who were notorious for being part and parcel of every foreign trip abroad.
In some cases, editors would consider it their prerogative to accompany PM on a free ride and later dropping there to spend times with families and friends. Six journalists from private media who will cover this visit will fly through commercial flights. Information Ministry has facilitated them in securing visas, flight arrangements and hotel bookings.
A ministry official said the journalists had paid their flight ticket and would do so for their boarding and lodging.