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Event Title: Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting

Event Date: 2021-09-15

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on the newly proposed idea of the PMDA was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed at the Parliament House on Wednesday. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry and State Minister Farrukh Habib briefed the committee on the concept paper for PMDA. 

The Chairman Committee Faisal Javed Highlighted that the Prime Minister Imran Khan would never put curbs of any kind on the freedom of speech and press. “ Prime Minister Imran Khan completely believes in freedom of expression. He will never put curbs of any kind on the freedom of speech and press”. Faisal Javed reiterated. He added that the PTI's menifesto says:" We are committed to maintaining a vigorous free media, which will evolve its own rules to ensure responsible journalism

The Chairman Committee Faisal Javed welcomed all the stake holders (PBA, CPNE, PFUJ, PRA, AEMEND) , representatives of Journalist Bodies and other National Media Groups to express their reservations and point of view for the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority “We want all journalist organizations, media workers’ opinions and suggestions to be brought to the fore. Everyone must work together for the promotion of freedom of press and development of media” stressed Senator Faisal Javed. 

The Chairman Comitttee Faisal Javed said that the good things of PMDA should be appreciated and flexibility should be shown for improvement. The Chairman Committee re-iterated that as long as the Proposed PMDA guarantees the rights of the freedom of Journalism and Interest of the Nation at large, we should acknowledge it. 

The Chairman Committee said that the PMDA bill has not been put before our committee so far. “Standing Committee is a legislative forum - it can comment on the legislation - so far only the concept paper has been shown”, Faisal Javed commented. He said that we shall be in a better position to decide once we receive the draft on the bill. “We have informed the information ministry of our response and recommendations” stated Faisal Javed

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, while briefing the committee on the Proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) said that first time in the history of Pakistan all the stake holders along with the legislative bodies are extensively being consulted prior to the official passing of the Bill. He said that it has become a convention by the opposition to oppose every bill proposed by the government, however this is an important bill and we should work above party lines to understand the spirit and objective behind the bill. Fawad Chaudhry lamented the fact that a fake ordinance was issued to misinterpret and create chaos in the country against the freedom of Journalism which the Government believes is their utmost right. He said that primarily this idea is based to address four central points, including the convergence of Broadcast, Digital , Telecom and Print Media, Protecting the Rights of the media workers, protection from abusive harmful content and fake news and a robust complaint redressal  mechanism, rationalization of imposing fine on violations and reducing regulatory cost. It was also briefed that Media Tribunal will consist of ten members (10) including a chairman. The chairman of the Tribunal shall be a person who has been, or is qualified to be a judge of the High court or Supreme Court.

The Chairman Committee believes that many technical questions have been raised on PMDA. He questioned whether or not many of the good goals/objectives that are included in the PMDA possible without this integration? The Chairman Committee said that Fake News is a big challenge today. The information systems have become more polarized & contentious. We need to tackle Fake News via strengthening libel laws, encouraging independent professional journalism. He said Technology can also be used to identify fake news via algorithms & crowdsourcing.

According to the proposal on Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) converging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PCP, Central Board of Films Censors (CBFC), Press Registrar Office, Audit Bureau of Circulation( ABC), Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees (ITNE) to regulate electronic, print, digital media and films under single regulatory Authority-Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA)

Pakistan Electronic Media Ordinance 2002 as amended by PEMRA amendment Act 2007, The Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979, The Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance, 2002, Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service ) Act 1973  to be repealed.

Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) to grant and renew license or registration certificate or declaration or NOC for electronic, print, films and digital media services.

The author shall be composed of chairman and 12 (twelve) member out of which 6 (six) members will be from private sector

The commission will be composed of four members from the government, four members from stakeholders. Media Complaint commission shall consist of a chairperson and five members. The Media Tribunal shall consist of ten members including a chairman.

The chairman Committee gave chance to all the stake holders to come in the front and express their views and give their input. The stakeholders while expressing their reservations on the PMDA unanimously believed that instead of Introducing news law for the Media and Journalism, the existing laws should be strengthened

The Chairman Committee said that the existing bodies like PCP need to be strengthened. Also there is no forum for Electronic Media hence PCP may be converted into Media Council of Pakistan to deal with issues related to media in general.

Earlier in the meeting, briefing on the Directorate of Electronic Media & Publications (DEMP) was also received by the committee members. The committee was apprised by the total sanctioned strength of the organization which is 369 and total working strength which is up to 300

The committee was also apprised on the Budget of the DEMP for the Year 2021-2022 which is 300.078 Million out of which the employee Related Expenses are 207.022 Million and Operation Expenses are 93.056.  The committee was briefed in detail on the overall working of the DEMP and on Publications and Documentaries.

The chairman committee concluded the meeting to sit again after the receiving of the legislative draft on the Proposed Bill of the PDMA

The meeting was attended by Senator Aon Abbas Buppi, Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Anwar Lal Dean, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Irfan ul Haque Siddiqui, in addition, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and all the stake holders (PBA, CPNE, PFUJ, PRA, AEMEND) attended committee meeting., representatives of journalist bodies and other National Media Groups were also in attendance