NA body for new legislation to make PEMRA more powerful
ISLAMABAD: A sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Wednesday directed the ministry to propose new legislation to make PEMRA more effective and its regulations more implementable.
Arifa Khalid Pervez, convener of the sub-committee, said that the committee and its members were not against the freedom of expression, but implementation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) laws did not mean interference in freedom of press.
Earlier briefing the sub-committee, Secretary Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Dr Nazir Saeed said steps were being taken to ensure strict implementation of PEMRA regulations. He referred to a meeting with Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) in this regard and said another meeting was scheduled next week to discuss the draft of code of conduct.
He said pro-active measures were also being taken for early hearing of cases in courts. He asked the members of sub-committee to submit their proposals for the proposed code of conduct for electronic media. He said the government had allocated Rs10 million for establishment of an endowment fund for journalists. The Implementation Tribunal for Newspapers Employees was responsible to settle complaints of working journalists, he added.
PEMRA Chairman Rashid Ahmed said it was a fact that some television channels were airing objectionable material in competition for rating. However, some marked improvement was witnessed during last five years.
He mentioned the Muharram 10 incident in Rawalpindi, saying all channels fully cooperated in the coverage of that unfortunate incident. Some committee members were of the opinion that most of the channels were violating PEMRA regulations, which they had signed at the time of issuance of license.
“Fourth pillar of the state, like others, should work under the Constitution”, remarked Imran Jaffar Leghari MNA. Strict implementation of PEMRA laws was the job of authority and there should be no excuse in that regard, he added.
Saman Sultana Jafri MNA said a satellite TV channel had aired the live call of a banned organisation but the PEMRA failed to intervene. Naeema Kishwar Khan MNA said that some TV channels highlighted the incidents of sexual assault and showed the faces of victims, but the faces of arrested terrorists were covered while showing their footage, which was strange.
The sub-committee also directed PEMRA to ensure that its toll free telephone number 0800-73672 should be displayed on all TV channels so that people could register their complaints about the content free of charge.
Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) Tahir Iqbal and Zeb Jaffar also attended the meeting. Besides Additional Secretary Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Muhammad Azam, senior officials of the ministry were also present in the meeting.