Right to Information Bill to be tabled in NA next month -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Right to Information Bill to be tabled in NA next month

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Saturday that the new draft bill on freedom of information, which was to be renamed as the Right to Information Bill, would be tabled in the National Assembly by mid-February.

“The government fully believes in freedom of expression and the final draft bill on the law would be ready by February 15 and presented either in the National Assembly (NA) or to the concerned standing committee for deliberations,” contended the minister.

Speaking during a meeting of the NA Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting here at the Parliament House, the minister pointed out that the proposed law would be renamed as the Right to Information Bill after the passage of the 18th Amendment.

Replying to a question, Kaira noted his ministry had sought input from all the stakeholders and so far, three provinces, civil society and media organisations of journalists had given their proposals on the draft bill, while a similar response from the Punjab and some federal ministries was awaited.

On this occasion, the minister requested the Chairperson of the committee, Belam Hasnain, who presided over the meeting, to give his ministry about two weeks to complete its homework and finalise the draft of the bill.

About threats to media persons, the minister maintained that his ministry had sought proposals from the media organisations for provision of security to working journalists without creating hindrances in discharge of their professional duties. The panel strongly condemned the tragic killing of a Geo journalist Wali Khan Babar.

Kaira revealed that the government had imported some life jackets that would soon be distributed among the media persons working in war zones. Moreover, he said the ministry had also arranged training for media men so that they could take measures for their safety while performing their duties.

He noted that access to information was not an issue exclusively related to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as several other ministries were also involved in the process. However, he added as parliament had assigned this task to his ministry, it was working on a comprehensive bill.

The minister proposed that instead of discussing the amendment bill moved by PML-Q MNA Dr Donya Aziz at this stage, it should be discussed in the next meeting when the final draft of the Access to Information Bill would be tabled in the committee. His proposal was accepted by the committee and now the bill moved by Donya Aziz would be discussed in the next meeting

To a point raised by PML-N’s Shireen Arshad, he contended that after taking charge of the ministry in March 2009, he offered the Pakistan Federal Union of the Journalists (PFUJ) to hold a trilateral meeting for resolution of the dispute over the implementation of the 7th Wage Board Award, but they preferred to get a court verdict, and the matter was hence sub judice.

Regarding job safety, the minister said this issue was related to the Ministry of Law as many proprietors had adopted diverse methods to avoid implementation of the labour laws. He said his ministry would launch the scheme for registration of working journalists and non-journalists related with the media industry with the Employees Old Age Benefit Institute (EOBI) next week.

For this purpose, the EOBI rules had been amended so that the journalists’ organisations and individual media persons could get themselves registered with the institute.

The minister noted that media persons in Islamabad were last time allotted plots in 2005 in Sector G-14.

Source: The News