Govt yet to finalise legislation for media tribunals, says Firdous


–PM’s aide says ‘govt wants to form a mechanism for media that upholds principles laid out in constitution’


ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Thursday said the government has not yet arrived at a final draft for legislation concerning the creation of controversial media tribunals.

While addressing the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA), Dr Awan said cabinet members had earlier expressed reservations and told Prime Minister Imran Khan that they were being “mistreated” by the media and had inquired about what could be done to compel the media to “act responsibly”.

She acknowledged that “consultations” in this regard had taken place but the government had not made any final drafts for a regulatory mechanism.

“The government wants that that a mechanism be formed that is independent of the government and upholds the principles laid out in the Constitution. But [we want to do this while] sitting with the media, in partnership with them; to determine some process about which direction we want to take this country in.”

Briefing the media on Tuesday, Dr Awan had said that “media tribunals” would be formed through the passage of a bill by parliament. She had at the time conceded that the government had not taken all stakeholders — including media persons, owners of media houses and media bodies — into confidence on this move.

Dr Awan clarified that no decision will be taken without consulting stakeholders.

“There will be various proposals and drafts that will be presented to you,” she said, addressing the media. “You are the stakeholders. It can never happen that we impose this on you without discussing it with the stakeholders.”

The final draft will be presented before the media after the premier returns from his engagements abroad, Dr Awan said.

The prime minister’s special assistant noted that some individuals in the media had already started speculating that the tribunal has been formed and the draft is about to be announced.

She clarified that the government had “two or three [policy] options” and that all stakeholders would be consulted on the matter.

“Things that are forcefully imposed cannot be sustained,” Dr Awan said.

During her address, the premier’s special assistant also urged the media to act responsibly when it comes to matters of national interest.

Following, the government’s announcement to set up media tribunals, various political leaders and rights bodies had criticised the move.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday said it was “deeply concerned” over the government’s announcement to set up the tribunals, fearing they would be used to suppress free speech and set curbs on media freedoms.