Govt to establish media courts


–Firdous says special courts will exclusively hear complaints by media industry against govt and vice versa


KARACHI: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Wednesday floated the idea of “media courts” that will speedily resolve “issues” pertaining to the media industry.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting with the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Awan said she had discussed the courts with PBA members.

She said that the proposed special courts will exclusively hear complaints by the media industry against the government as well as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and vice versa.

Awan described media workers as “the backbone of the media industry”. She said she had taken up the problems of media workers with the PBA and promised that under a new policy, the government will be playing the role of a bridge between media employees and employers.

The policy under consideration will ensure the rights and responsibilities of the two sides. In particular, she placed great stress on media owners ensuring that media workers are paid on time.

“We have handed over the draft document of the policy to the PBA for vetting,” she said, adding that the rights of media workers and media houses will be protected under the new policy.

“The PBA communicated some complaints regarding the current regulator — PEMRA. Being a mediator, I will ensure the resolution of all justified complaints,” she said.

She added that the PBA will play an effective role in implementing the proposed policy.

Talking about social media, she said that it did not fall under the ambit of PEMRA, “so we, after consultation with PBA, are going to take PEMRA and others on board” over regulating it.

“We are devising a mechanism for social media; the details will be shared at a later stage,” she said.

She noted that PEMRA had issued licences for 58 new channels, which not only helped the government generate Rs5 billion but also created employment opportunities in the media industry.

The special assistant further said that the government is going to introduce a media digitalisation policy to resolve the issue of “switchover” among channels on cable networks.

She also praised the PBA’s role “against India in the media war”.

On Tuesday, while answering questions during a meetup at United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Prime Minister Imran Khan had denied that the government was muzzling press freedom in Pakistan.

Imran said the present government would be the most inclusive government as far as the freedom of press was concerned.

“Pakistani media is more freer than British media,” the prime minister said, adding that strengthening media watchdogs was not censorship.

He said he himself was the biggest beneficiary of free media as he forwarded his message to the people through media. But added that media should avoid personal attacks and not a become party.

“There are 70 to 80 TV channels in the country and only two or three of them are complaining of censorship,” he maintained.