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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Saturday the existing laws regarding the rights of journalists, ethical media, responsibilities of the media, and fake news within the regulatory bodies in many countries of the world were reviewed, adding that PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023 contained international best practices.

The minister mentioned that the PEMRA Amendment Bill was meticulously developed in consultation with both the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and the journalists, themselves.

The primary goal of this bill, she added was to ensure the protection of journalists’ rights across the entire country.

NA body approves Pemra Amendment Bill 2023: New rules for electronic media announced

Addressing the media, she said the PTI government imposed restrictions on the media due to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)’s order; they tried to bring the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority black law, which was opposed by all political parties and media organisations.

“PEMRA Amendment Bill 2023 is the bill not of the government; this is a bill of Pakistan, the people of Pakistan, the media and journalists, in which the rights of journalists are protected. It includes the representation of journalistic organisations, and they are empowered to make decisions,” the minister added.

She said that there were 140 channels licensed by PEMRA in Pakistan, among them 35 were news and current affairs channels, 52 entertainment channels, 25 regional channels, six non-commercial and education channels, five sports channels, seven health and agro channels, and 10 education commercial channels.

The minister said that the PEMRA Ordinance was promulgated in 2002 and now in 2023, with the changes in media landscape, it has become so diverse.

“We are all going through a new era of social media where new platforms have been introduced to express opinions, all these channels are present on cyberspace and social media”, she added.

Marriyum said that last year, when she was appointed Minister for Information, she held first meeting with the Joint Action Committee on 23rd April 2022.

Representatives of PBA, APNS, CPNE, AMEND, and PFUJ were included in the joint action committee.

The minister said that the laws regarding the rights of journalists, ethical media, media responsibilities, and fake news within the regulatory bodies in many countries of the world were reviewed.

She said she was thankful to all these organisations that assisted her in preparing the PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023.

Marriyum said that the Joint Action Committee held several meetings over the course of 11 months for consultations with all the stakeholders on the bill.

She said that for the first time the definition of disinformation and misinformation had been included in the PEMRA law with the support of all media organisations.

“We clarified the difference between misinformation and disinformation in the bill,” she said.

Marriyum said that Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees existed for print media, but there was no forum to protect the rights of electronic media employee who were dismissed from jobs on political grounds.

She said that all stakeholders joined hands to protect the rights of journalists and media workers.

The minister said that the PEMRA amendment bill was made in light of the resolutions approved by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and in consultation with journalists and clauses were added in this bill considering the existing media laws in the countries of Great Britain, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, France, India, Brazil, Russia, European Union, and Australia.

She said that the bill was prepared according to the resolutions of the UN Human Rights Committee.

“Today some people are worried how this bill was finalised in consultation with media,” she added.

“The media itself has determined its responsibility in this bill and those criticising the bill have not read it,” she said.

Regarding the amendments in PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023, the minister said that a comparative review of this bill had been done.

On this occasion, the minister also showed the media a comparative review of PEMRA Ordinance 2002 and PEMRA (Amendment) Bill 2023.

Marriyum said that the PEMRA Amendment Bill represented a significant step towards empowering the media and safeguarding the rights of journalists in Pakistan.

The bill included several key provisions that aimed to enhance the role and independence of the media while providing necessary protections to journalists, she said, while addressing a press conference here.

The PEMRA Amendment Bill’s aim was to protect journalists’ rights through consultation with both the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and journalists themselves.

“One positive change in the PEMRA bill grants the media opportunity to have a say in the authority’s decisions. Moreover, the media now has representation in the council of complaints, which helps prevent any potential misuse of power”, she maintained.

Under the new changes, she said the powers of the PEMRA chairman were transferred to a committee, and working journalists were now represented in the provincial council of complaints.

The bill also mandated minimum wages and female representation, she said, adding after the implementation of new act, media organisations found guilty of violations would be ineligible for government business.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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