Media fully free now, says Marriyum

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Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday said the four-year “dark era” for media and journalists is now over as the coalition government has allowed full freedom of speech.

Briefing the Senate’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, she said the incumbent government fully believed in freedom of media and press. During the last year of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) rule, neither any channel was closed nor any programme was off-aired,the minister said. “No one now breaks the noses or the ribs of journalists.” Responding to a query of Senator Faisal Javed, who presided over the meeting, she asked him to “bring facts and figures and then talk”.

The present government, she said, had not filed cases against any journalist under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. “Who had placed media ban on Nawaz Sharif?  Who arrested Irfan Siddiqui at midnight?” she asked. When Faisal Javed Khan claimed that some news channels were blocked during the past one year, the minister challenged him to give the name of the channel which was closed. However, the committee chairman failed to give any information in that regard.

Senators Irfan Siddqui and Waqar Mehdi proposed that media house owners should be called to the meeting to get first hand comparative analysis on media freedom during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the PDM. Irfan Siddqui said he was a witness to the previous government’s victimization and also a victim. He proposed that Mir Shakeel-ur-Rahman and other media persons should be invited so that they could inform the august forum what happened to them in the last four years.

Senator Faisal Javed asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chairman to ensure that Imran Khan’s speeches would be aired by all channels. The committee members said the PEMRA chairman had no powers to dictate to the private media. PEMRA Chairman Salim Baig said he could not ask the channels to telecast the speeches of the head of a political party. He said the Authority had implemented the verdict of the Lahore High Court. PEMRA, he added, had no power to influence the editorial judgment of the electronic media outlets, which were free to decide whether to telecast Imran’s speech or not.

Replying to Senator Syed Waqar Mehdi’s question about the payment of pensions to the widows of Radio Pakistan employees by 20th Ramazan, Radio Pakistan Director General Tahir Hasan said funds for the purpose had been arranged. The minister said the previous government had started the process for a business plan for Radio Pakistan, but it was only on paper and nothing practically was done. The DG Radio had prepared a plan, which had not yet been formally submitted to the ministry, she added.

“No permission has been given to Radio Pakistan to sell its land or give it to the private sector,” she said, adding a proposal was being considered to build a cinema house on its land,so that it could generate funds. Marriyum said four state of the art podcast studios had been set up at different radio stations and the committee members could visit the respective stations to have firsthand information about them.

Also, Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Tuesday that April 10, 2023 will go down in her life as a moment of “landmark achievement”. In a tweet, she said on this day she spearheaded the process of developing the curriculum and presented a resolution, giving a definite road-map to teach and integrate the Constitution and its core values of democracy, diversity and dialogue. It is worth mentioning that Marriyum on Monday had tabled a resolution in the house calling for the inclusion of the Constitution in the curriculum, which was adopted.