Sindh Assembly: Rs36.3m given to Hyderabad Press Club in 2011 for journalists’ residences
KARACHI: Sindh has a whopping 192 press clubs, with Khairpur, Thatta and Dadu topping the list of districts with the largest number of press clubs at 22, 19 and 15 respectively.
Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri told the Sindh Assembly on Thursday that the government was committed to working with press clubs, based on directives from President Asif Ali Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.
This has also resulted in a considerable amount of funding. Since 2009, the government has given Rs48.8 million in funding to press clubs in Sindh. This includes Rs36.3 million to Hyderabad Press Club in 2011 as a part of a payment for the purchase of 75 acres of land for journalists’ residences. Karachi’s press clubs have received Rs5.5 million in funding since 2009. While Naushehro Feroze’s press clubs have not received any funding in the past few years, Marri said a summary had been moved to this affect and was supported by Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Dr Ahmed Ali Shah, who was elected from the district.
Other support to journalists, Marri said, included funding the Karachi Union of Journalists which will be setting up a grant for journalists with the money and pushing for the implementation of the Wage Board Award.
Several legislators questioned the rationale behind which the money was given out. The information minister said that this was based on requests from press clubs, who require money for a number of reasons including journalists’ welfare, repair and development of press clubs and equipment.
She also noted that there were often disputed press clubs – resulting in more than one in a city or taluka – but that the information department tried to negotiate with the factions and get them to unite, especially when it came to deciding who to give money to. “We give funding to the one that is the oldest and has an established working presence,” Marri said. The government also has no plan at the moment to register press clubs independently.
Law for newspapers
The Sindh information minister also told the assembly that the department was working on a comprehensive piece of legislation on newspapers; a subject which was devolved to the province after the 18th amendment to the constitution was signed into law. The subject of censorship was dealt with by the culture department and a law for this had already been passed by the Sindh Assembly.
The assembly was also told that a feasibility study for the establishment of a Sindh Media Centre was budgeted at Rs5 million but the PC-2 document prepared for it was scrapped after Marri was first replaced as minister.