Pemra being taken away from Info Ministry -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Pemra being taken away from Info Ministry

ISLAMABAD: Pemra, the all-important regulatory authority for the electronic media, which was grabbed by the information ministry some months ago and used for excessive control over the media, is now being taken away and will be returned to the impartial cabinet division under the direct control of the prime minister.

The cabinet division has moved a summary to the prime minister to get back control over the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) from the information ministry because it was argued that interference from the parent ministry in its affairs was unavoidable.

The summary has been moved following a green signal from caretaker Prime Minister Muhammedmian Soomro. The cabinet division has routed it through the information ministry. Information Secretary Anwar Mehmud confirmed to this correspondent on Tuesday that the summary is presently lying in his office. The information ministry would give its comment on the proposal and forward it to the prime minister for a final decision.

It is interesting to note that almost all regulatory authorities, including the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), the Pakistan Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA), the Intellectual Property Rights Authority (IPRA), etc, are working under the cabinet division.

Pemra was established on March 1, 2002 through an ordinance. It was initially placed under the information ministry but was later shifted to the cabinet division in line with the government’s policy of ensuring the neutrality of regulatory authorities.

However, in a surprise move and without proper consultation, Pemra was brought back under the control of the information ministry in 2007. According to a source, who was serving in the prime minister’s secretariat at that time, the Pemra’s shifting from the cabinet division was a consequence of a verbal directive issued by the presidency to tighten control over the electronic media.

The source confirmed that the matter was neither placed before the federal cabinet for discussion and decision nor the agencies concerned were taken into confidence over the issue. The shifting, according to the source, was made in such indecent haste that even the cabinet division, which was the parent division of the Pemra at that time, was not consulted and was simply conveyed the executive order.

The source said the rationale behind the move was to tame the electronic media through the time-tested arm-twisting techniques of the information ministry.On and after Nov 3, 2007 Pemra’s partiality became all the more obvious when without any prior notice it blacked out all private television channels throughout the country.

Pemra’s primary role is to facilitate the growth of electronic media and to regulate its operations; however, because of last year’s judicial crisis and the May 12 Karachi killings the government had assigned a much more stringent role to Pemra which, under the written government policy, is supposed to regulate the media in the backdrop of our cultural, social and religious values.

The latest move of the caretaker government has been initiated at a time when Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has assured that he would make Pemra fully autonomous when his party forms the government at the Centre. Zardari has expressed his resolve more than once that there would be no government control on the media, both electronic and print.
Source: The News
Date:3/5/2008