Body formed for proposals on newspaper industry issues
By: Mumtaz Alvi
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid on Thursday formed a four-member committee to furnish its recommendations within seven days on the key issues the newspaper industry was presently facing.
The minister took this decision during a lively interaction with the representatives of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), headed by their President Sarmad Ali, here at a local hotel. The panel will consist of information secretary, the APNS president, principal information officer and the APNS general secretary. Pervaiz Rashid will also attend one or two meetings of the committee.
The issues the committee will take up include the APNS demand for increase in government ad rates, Rs200 million newspaper dues stuck up in the wake of devolution of ministries, how to help out regional newspapers now in ICU and separation of ads quota for print and electronic media.
Speaking on the occasion, the minister assured the forum that in order to bring transparency in ads and payments, a website would be launched and be updated on daily basis. He added the freedom of information act draft had been passed by the concerned Senate standing committee that would now be shared also with the APNS to get their feedback on it prior to giving it a final shape.
About the regional papers, Rashid said that it would be APNS responsibility to eliminate what he called ghost newspapers. He added a mechanism was also to be made with regards to the revision of the media list accordingly. The minister said the government would like to see how the regional papers be supported to pull them out of financial crisis.
He agreed to a request by an APNS representative from Balochistan that newspapers in his province should be given more support because they totally relied on government ads as the private sector in the province was non-existent.
In general, the minister said, political parties and the media regained strength 10-15 years back from a brutal force, which three or four times ruled Pakistan since it creation while commanded influence on political governments even during the remaining period.
The minister said that now political parties and the media would have to decide whether we wanted to give Pakistan as our elders handed over to us or the present day Pakistan, wherein mothers were afraid of even sending their children to schools. He called for an approach under which Pakistan be made a safe country.
Earlier, Sarmad Ali in his presentation called for an upward revision of government ads and pulling the regional newspapers out of what he called the ICU and urged the minister to declare emergency in this connection, saying it was a question of the regional papers’ survival.
He asked the government for shifting regional papers from the ICU to the general ward. He also proposed allocation of separate quota of ads for the print and electronic media, noting the quantum of ads was in favour of the electronic media. Sarmad said that an equitable quantum of ads be given to newspapers being their right.
He called for rationalisation of the media list that presently consisted of 1,837 newspapers and pointed out only 364 were APNS members. He called for transparency in distribution of ads. He said the government of Punjab had adopted the bill on freedom of information and they expected parliament to also enact such law.
Sarmad noted that Rs1,310 million dues were still stuck up and these included Rs200 million against the ministries that had been devolved and another Rs200 million against some other ministries. He reminded the minister that during the tenure of prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, a plot was allotted to APNS in Islamabad but then section officer at the CDA said the plot could not be allotted to the APNS being a commercial organisation. He urged the minister to get the plot allotted to the APNS in Islamabad.