Parliament’s mediation body reviews Pemra bill
ISLAMABAD, January 08 2006: The Mediation Committee of the National Assembly and Senate on Saturday January 7 reviewed 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 was 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.
The committee members listened to the points and objections on some clauses of the Pemra Bill raised by various stakeholders and decided to hold another meeting on January 18 to discuss some amendments to the bill.
Matiuallah Jan, media law policy adviser Internews Pakistan, gave a detailed presentation to the committee members on various sections of the proposed amendments to the Pemra bill.
According to an official handout, Mr Jan told the committee members that under Section 34-A, the police had been given vast powers and it could even arrest broadcasters.
He suggested that the amendment be withdrawn as it would promote policing, instead of ensuring regulation.
Mr Jan also pointed out that there was no representation of the stakeholders in Pemra Board and suggested that they should be given representation in the board.
Najeeb Ahmed of the Association of Independent Radios (AIR) and Khalilur Rehman and Tariq Zuberi of Pakistan Broadcasters Association also presented their comments on various sections of the bill.
The meeting was presided over by the committee’s chairman Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Sher Afgan Khan Niazi. It was attended by Federal Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Justice (Retd) Abdul Razzaq Thahim, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Malik Allahyar Khan, MNAs Samia Raheel Qazi, Bushra Rehman and Dr Firdous Ashiq, senators Farhatullah Babar, Tanveer Khalid, Tahira Latif, Shujaul Mulk and Kamran Murtaza.
It may be recalled that media bodies have been voicing their concern over the new provisions in the Pemra bill. They fear that it will infringe upon the 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, representing the working journalists, FM Association of Independent Radios and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association representing the TV channel owners have described some provisions of the amendment as a threat to the freedom of the press and basic fundamental rights of the citizen.
International media bodies like “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) have also expressed similar apprehensions and voiced concern, he said. He said that refusal to invite media to the meeting would only invite adverse comments from the media bodies who had high stakes in the passage of the new law.