The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should have independent local media. This will create an enabling environment for political participation in the region ahead of the next general elections, said mainstream political parties and elected officials from the region here on Thursday.
The parties and MNAs demanded that President Asif Ali Zardari urgently issue an executive order or an ordinance extending the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to FATA so it may start issuing licenses for local radio stations and TV channels.
The demand came in the form of a special declaration at a roundtable discussion, “Can There Be Political Reforms in FATA without Media Reforms?”, conducted by Intermedia Pakistan, a national media advocacy organisation.
Currently, local media in the region is catering to more than five million people through only three state-owned FM radio stations. “Under current laws there cannot be local independent radio stations, TV channels or print media in FATA, which hampers the exercise of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and the right to have access to information,” Intermedia Executive Director Adnan Rehmat told the participants, whom included MNAs, senators and other politicians from the PPP, ANP, PML-Q and PML-N.
The participants said they “wholeheartedly” endorse the demand for media reforms made in three preceding roundtables on the theme held in Nov 2011 and June 2012 by the same organiser.
“In view of the upcoming elections, we emphasise the need for steps to optimise the opportunity for FATA residents to vote for their representatives through a facilitative and enabling open and local media environment,” said a declaration passed at the conclusion of the discussion.
“We, the political parties of Pakistan, and elected representatives of FATA, collectively emphasise that the residents of FATA have the same constitutional and political rights as citizens in the rest of Pakistan,” said the declaration.
The roundtable also endorsed a draft notification prepared by legal experts and members of bar associations from across Pakistan at the third roundtable for the president, which can form the basis for urgent media reforms for FATA.
Copies of the declaration will be sent to the president, members of parliament and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2012.
More in PakistanSeminar on rights of minorities in South Asia from July 3