Mediation body on Pemra bill meets tomorrow
ISLAMABAD, January 06 2006: The Mediation Committee of the National Assembly and Senate will meet on Saturday January 7 to take up the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) bill that was passed by the National Assembly in May last year, but failed to get approval from Senate within the mandatory 90-day period.
This will be the second meeting of the mediation committee, a new instrument incorporated in the Constitution under the 17th Amendment that is designed to take up bills on which there is disagreement between the National Assembly and the Senate.
In the previous meeting on December 16 last year, the committee members had unanimously decided to invite all stakeholders, including Association of Independent Radios, Pakistan Broadcasters Association, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Cable Operators Association of Pakistan and Internews Pakistan in its next meeting.
People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar was appointed coordinator of the committee.
Sources told Dawn that after the first meeting of the committee, all stakeholders received letters from the secretary, asking them to nominate two persons for the next meeting. They said the stakeholders had once again received letters with the same contents for Saturday’s meeting which had created confusion.
Under the constitutional provision, the mediation committee is presided over by a member of the house in which the bill originated. Another member from the other house is nominated as vice-chairman. As the bill originated and was passed in the National Assembly, the committee’s chairman is Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Sher Afgan Niazi. Federal Minister for Rural Development and Local Government Senator Abdul Razzaq Thahim is the committee’s vice-chairman.
Other members include Minister of State for Law Shahid Akram Bhinder, Minister of State for Information Technology Ali Asjad Malhi, MNAs Begum Bushra Rahman, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Malik Allahyar Khan, Samia Raheel Qazi, Mir Aijaz Jhakrani and senators Raza Rabbani, Farhatullah Babar, Tanvir Khalid, Tahira Latif, Mohammad Amjad Abbas, Shujaul Mulk and Kamran Murtaza.
Media bodies have voiced concern over the new provisions in the Pemra bill. They fear that it will infringe upon media freedom by vesting vast powers in the hands of the executive to prosecute and punish journalists. The government, however, denies this and says the bill is aimed at allowing cross media ownership.
Various representative bodies of the media including the PFUJ, FM Association of Independent Radios and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association that represents TV channel owners have described some provisions of the amendment as threatening to freedom of press and basic fundamental rights of the citizen.