President Alvi assures support for Pemra Amendment Bill 2023

President Dr Arif Alvi while speaking to a delegation of representatives of PFUJ, APNS, CPNE, and AEMEND on August 15, 2023. — Provided

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday assured media workers and the journalist community of his support for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Amendment Bill 2023.

Last week, the bill was approved by the upper and lower houses of parliament after the federal government withdrew it following journalist associations’ concerns.

The then-information minister, Marriyum Aurangzeb, tabled the bill in the Senate, which was later introduced in the National Assembly, saying that amendments to the bill had been included with the input of all stakeholders.

The president extended support while speaking to a delegation of representatives of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

The delegation included Afzal Butt, Arshad Ansari, Naz Afreen Saigol, Sarmad Ali, Shahab Zuberi, Shakeel Masud, Ijaz ul Haq, Kazim Khan, Ayaz Khan, and Azhar Abbas.

President Alvi also appreciated the collective efforts of the media community for introducing amendments to the Pemra law, especially to protect the rights of media workers.

He said that the linking of government advertisements with the payment of dues to electronic media employees would help address their issues while also discussing various aspects of the bill with the visiting delegation. He also added that the amendment bill had brought improvements to the existing media law.

Asking the members of the delegation to volunteer to educate the youth about fake news and disinformation, President Alvi highlighted that teenagers were among the most vulnerable populations to the scourge of fake news, and they needed to be educated and sensitised about its implications.

He remarked that the media, especially senior journalists, should enhance linkages with academia and universities to guide and educate students about fake news and the new developments taking place in the field of journalism.

The head of the state also urged the need to promote diversity of thought and opinions by promoting dialogue in society and free exchange of ideas.

He said that the dynamics of new forms of media, especially social media, should be understood, adding that it was the responsibility of media to educate the people on morality and the use of social media in a responsible and constructive manner.

The delegation briefed the president about various provisions of the new bill that would benefit the journalist community as well as media employees while thanking Dr Alvi for his support and taking an interest in addressing the issues faced by the media community.

The bill

The bill said a parliamentary committee will be formed for the appointment of the Pemra chairman and the Ministry of Information will propose five names for the media regulatory body chief.

The parliamentary body will comprise four National Assembly members and two members of the Senate with equal representation from the treasury and opposition benches.

The committee will send a name for the Pemra chief to the president for appointment, according to the amended law.

If the parliamentary committee could not agree on the name within 30 days, then the information ministry panel will send the bill to the prime minister who will then propose a suitable name for the post and forward it to the president, as per the bill.

The amended legislation has also replaced the word salary for media workers with dues.

Aurangzeb had said the bill would ensure financial security for media workers as the government will not grant ads to those media houses that will not pay the dues to journalists for consecutive two months.

“Three clauses have been inserted in the amendment bill. There was room for change and improvement in the bill.”

She said the definition of misinformation and disinformation has been redefined in the amended bill.

Consultations were held with various journalistic organisations before the passage of the bill, the minister said, adding that media houses will not get government ads if they do pay minimum wage to their workers.

Moreover, the media houses violating laws related to wages can be imposed a fine of Rs10 million.