Islamabad: The government and media representatives of Pakistan have agreed to form a committee to address the media regulation issue under the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and Minister of State Farrukh Habib held a meeting with representatives of different media organizations in which they agreed to form a committee to address the issue of fake news particularly on social media, the rights of media workers and ways to improve laws and regulatory framework.
* The body envisages a board of eight people would include four government officials and four media stakeholders.
* One of the proposals was to set up tribunals to investigate and review complaints against media organisations as well as the non-payment of wages to media workers.
* The tribunals may also have the power to hand penalties of up to three years in jail and Rs25 million in fines to violators.
The meeting was attended by Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, the president of PFUJ said that they considered the PDMA bill “a draconian piece of legislation and reject it in its entirety.” They said the journalist organizations informed the minister that PDMA is “unacceptable” to them but they are ready for further discussions with the government on improving the existing laws.
A large number of Pakistani journalists staged a protest outside Parliament House in Islamabad on Monday against the proposed media bill which they say would undermine press freedom. However, the government argues that the legislation is in the vital public interest and aims to tackle the issue of fake news, particularly on social media. Government officials have assured that they “will not forcefully pass the law” and are engaging with the protesting journalists to include their proposals in the legislation.
The proposed legislation became controversial even before the document was finalized due to apprehensions among the media representatives who were kept out of the loop during the drafting process. “It is only after this backlash and protests that the government decided to engage the media groups in the process” Nayyer Ali, Islamabad-based broadcast journalist, told Gulf News. “If the government is sincere about improving the conditions of journalists working in the field then they should improve the existing laws and increase accountability to ensure media companies provide security and job safety to employees and pay salaries on time,” Nayyer said.