New regulations will not curtail media freedom, assures Firdous

Published: February 27, 2012

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan has dispelled the impression that the new laws and regulations that the government is proposing will threaten the freedom of media in Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan has dispelled the impression that the new laws and regulations that the government is proposing will threaten the freedom of media in Pakistan.

“No such rule will be imposed,” Firdous told a press conference on Monday. “We will seek consensus from television channel operators and only those points will be included in the final draft at which a consensus has been reached.”

Firdous said that the new regulations will build on the traditions of accountability and healthy debate and competition which have been introduced by the media.

Justifying the need for a new policy, Firdous said that regulations need to be updated to reflect the change in needs. “In 2002, when there wasn’t a single satellite television channel in Pakistan, a policy was devised. Ten years later, when there are 89 local and 26 foreign channels operating in Pakistan, is there no need to consult again and evolve a new mechanism?” she questioned.

She said that the objective of the policy is to curtail all illegal operational mechanisms and enforcement of Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority rules.

The salient feature of the policy will be protection of Pakistan’s sociocultural and religious values and supremacy of national interest. “There are recommendations on how television channels can help forge unity among the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. There are also recommendations pertaining to programmes on religion and news and current affairs. It also touches upon advertisements, privacy and personal data protection,” she said.

Firdous said that before new licenses can be granted, the capacity of the cable system needs to be upgraded. Currently, she said, the system works on analogue technology which allows 60 to 65 channels to be operated but 89 channels are being aired. “License-holders then complain that cable operators keep switching channels on and off at will. We want to allow channels only when the network has the capacity to operate them. The system is being digitalised and we’re looking at other options like DTH,” she said, adding that this is in the interest of cable operators, license subscribers and viewers.

The information minister said that Pemra had only opened consultations today and negotiated with the Council of Complaints as a first step. “The biggest stakeholder, Pakistan Broadcasting Association, is yet to be taken on board. Until a final policy is drafted, Pemra has no right to dictate anyone anything and the government will not allow it.”

However, she said, Pemra was formed to ensure a responsible media and it must continue to do so. “The parliament works under the constitution, the judiciary follows some rules and regulations as does the executive. Then why shouldn’t an important institution like the media not have a code of conduct,” she said.

The 2002 code of conduct, she said, could not be implemented properly and had gaps which need to be rectified. “The government alone cannot implement laws through force. Media operators need to partner with us. This is the concept we’re trying to introduce. There should be mediation and consultation, not confrontation.”

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Ahmad
    Feb 27, 2012 - 3:25PM

    The Honorable minister should apologize to that Chinese delagation who was forced to wait more than 1-1/2 hour for a meeting with her some months back. The delgation left in protest without meeting.

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 3:30PM

    I strongly agree with the Gov, media must be held accountable too

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 3:44PM

    All sort of subversion against Islam, Pakistan and Pakistanis will continue to go on since our US leadership have bigger plans for us.

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  • Amna
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:17PM

    I think people like Dr. Sahiba who themselves are iconic illiterates should not devise policies any more. I will be thankful to them for packing up their luxurious bags and leave the remaining shambles of our economy, health, media, literacy in safe hands.

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  • Pakistani
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:19PM

    100% Right…. no one is angel including media

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  • lashari baloch
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:28PM

    @Pakistan politics:
    right

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  • Shakir Lakhani
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:42PM

    Remember Information Minister Sherry Rehman resigning after a satellite channel was blocked despite her assurances that no such thing would happen? I doubt if Firdous Awan is principled enough to resign if satellite channels are prevented from telecasting the truth.

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  • Parvez
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:32AM

    Madam, Instead of placing restrictions on the media under the garb of ‘national interest’ which has the potential of being misused and will be viewed as such by the public. Would it not be better to address your governments weaknesses so the the media has reason to support you.

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  • Saad
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:26AM

    I want to see her vs Imran Khan

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