‘Pemra bill is not a validation of PCO’
KARACHI, April 12: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman has said the recently tabled Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (Amendment) Bill, introduced by her in the National Assembly on Friday, “is not a validation of the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO),” enforced after President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3 last year in his erstwhile capacity as chief of the army staff.
She was speaking to journalists here during an informal meeting held at the Press Information Department office on Saturday.
“It (the bill) is a positive action and we will move forward. It is the first step. Other discriminatory laws will also be slowly repealed. The information ministry needs the media’s guidance,” she told journalists.
Critics have questioned the need for the bill as according to some, a National Assembly resolution should be enough to do away with the aftermath of the emergency that most, if not all, in the present government consider illegal and unconstitutional.
Ms Rehman said a Print Registration Bill would also be moved, while adding that there should be a mediation body to resolve the issues of the press.
“The electronic media is a new world with new issues. The print media is free and should be allowed to be free.
The electronic media has all kinds of stakeholders and meetings with these stakeholders will begin from Monday,” she said.
The minister said that though the government can’t make the owners follow all the demands of the press, the Wage Board issue would be taken up with the APNS.
Ms Rehman said the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) should not have enforcement powers, but pointed out that the authority did not report to the information ministry.
In reply to a question about the off-and-on blackouts of cable channels, especially during times of strife, she said that “anybody is open to coercion. However, the state should not resort to coercion.”
As for the scenes of gratuitous violence that are broadcast by some television channels and the need for a regulatory mechanism, Ms Rehman said “as a minister, I do not want to impose anything. We want to build a consensus,” adding that anything that is imposed by the government would not be taken well by the media.
Moving on to more political issues, when asked why Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ishaq Dar did not accompany President Musharraf on his recent trip to China, she said that Mr Dar had prior commitments at the World Bank and that there was “tremendous pressure” on the minister to confront the economic issues affecting the nation.
Responding to another question about the countdown to restoring the pre-Nov 3 judges, Sherry Rehman said “the voter is not interested in a countdown. The voter is interested in the price of milk and wheat flour. There are issues involved in restoring the judges. There has to be a consensus.”
When asked why no committee has been formed in the National Assembly to look into the restoration of judges, the minister said the government had to tackle financial issues first.
Later, the minister visited the JPMC to apprise herself of the hospital’s working and the problems being faced by the staff and patients. She declared that the public health service would be improved immediately and improvement would also be brought about in the facilities of the JPMC, adds APP.