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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday unanimously passed the "Press Council of Pakistan Amendment Bill 2020".

The bill was introduced by the PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi, which opposed the appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge as chairman of the Press Council of Pakistan.

The committee was held under the chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed.

The committee abolished the section related to the appointment of retired Supreme Court Judge as chairman of the Council and it has been added that only a media person, any person related to law, which could even be a lawyer or a retired judge of any court or any social scientist will be eligible to become the chairman.

The maximum age limit is 60 years for the chairman of the Press Council, and the committee suggested that two senators too may be included in Council as member. The committee also demanded the government to give the status of "industry" to media so that the journalists and media workers people in other fields to enhance their quality of work.

Senator Faisal Javed asked the Ministry of Information to prepare a briefing over the matter in the next meeting.

The Committee also approved amendments in the PEMRA Ordinance that makes the Authority responsible for enforcing the employment contract between the journalist and other employee and the media organisation.

The amendment was added in Section 30 of the PEMRA Ordinance, has empowered the electronic media regulator to take action against the channels where the emlpoyees do not have employment contract.

However, certain observations were made by Senator Pervaiz Rasheed of the PML-N who cautioned against granting the powers to the PEMRA to maintain the employee-employer relations.

"If the rights of employees are protected through PEMRA, more problems will arise, there are other laws to protect employees," he said, adding that there were reservations in the PEMRA too over giving them this responsibility.

Senator Rasheed said the power could be misused and the electronic media could face financial problems too.

He added that PEMRA was given powers to maintain freedom of expression in country but these powers were currently used to suppress freedom of expression.

The chairman of the committee pointed towards the non-news contents at electronic channels and added that the quality of dramas at private channels were sub-standard.

Chairman of the committee said that there was a time when Pakistani dramas were appreciated all over the world, but now this sector has been ruined by adopting the culture of neighbouring country.

Senator Sabir Shah added, "Such dramas are destroying our family values."

All the members of the committee demanded the PEMRA to immediately review the current dramas and the immoral contents in them.

However, the officials added that the PEMRA has no system or authority to monitor and take action against dramas of private channels. Chairman Senator Javed gave the ruling that the committee would help empower the PEMRA to monitor and regulate any improper content in dramas, and asked the officials to forward a summary in this regard to the committee.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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