ISLAMABAD: Amid thin attendance in the house, the National Assembly on Wednesday passed 12 bills which also include the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

The bills, which sailed through the house, include five government’s and seven private members’ bills. The interesting thing which the house witnessed was that the private members’ bills were passed by bringing a supplementary agenda during the session.

All the private members’ bills were pertaining to the establishment of universities in their respective constituencies as the term of the incumbent government is drawing near.

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

The house passed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023 along with amendments having the prime objective to benefit journalists and foster a free and responsible media environment.

The bill was moved by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, accordingly, amendments in the form of the PEMRA (Amendments Bill, 2023) have been proposed, whose objects and reasons are as follows:

“Disinformation” and “Misinformation” are being added to the definitions in order to provide legal measures to counter challenges of false, misleading, manipulated, created or fabricated information.

It said that “in order to provide legal platform for appeal to resolve any grievance related to non-payment of wages/ salary by electronic media channels, the amendments/ insertions are being made in the preamble as well as in Section 6, 20A, 20B and 26 of the Ordinance.

These proposed amendments/ insertions deal with the, following issues:

(i) Payment of minimum wages; (ii) Timely payment of wages/ salaries, not later than two months, to electronic media employees by the broadcasters; (iii) stoppage of release of commercials to broadcasters till the payment of pending salaries to its employees on the recommendation of Authority or Council of Complaints; (iv) inclusion of one representative from broadcasters and one representative from Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) as non-voting honorary members of the Authority (PEMRA); (v) for the purpose of receiving and reviewing complaints made by the electronic media employees to the extent of payment of minimum wages policy and timely payment of their salaries, in each Council of Complaints, two non-voting honorary members shall be appointed, one from broadcasters and one from electronic media employees.

It said that “validity of twenty years for broadcast media license and ten years’ validity for distribution service license are being introduced in Section 24. The validity of licenses is subject to payment of annual fee, including late payment fee if any as may be prescribed from time to time. However, it will not include annual gross advertisement revenue in any form whatsoever”.

The bill said that “disinformation” means verifiably false, misleading, manipulated, created or fabricated information which is disseminated or shared with the intention to cause harm to the reputation of or to harass any person for political, personal, or financial interest or gains without making an effort to get other person’s point of view or not giving it proper coverage and space but does not include misinformation“.

“The licensee of the authority shall ensure timely payment of salaries not later than two months to the electronic media employees working with it.

A licensee of the Authority shall comply with all decisions and orders of the Authority and the Council of Complaints for payment of outstanding salaries to its employees“.

“In case of non-compliance by the licensee, the Authority or, as the case may be, the Council of Complaints shall write to the division or department of the Federal Government or, as the case may be, the Provincial Government to which stands allocated the business in this behalf to stop release of TV or radio commercials to the licensee till the payment of pending salaries to its employees”.

“The licensee of the Authority shall ensure timely payment of salaries not later than two months to the electronic media employees working with it,” it added.

About the government advertisements, the bill said that “a licensee of the authority shall comply with all decisions and orders of the authority and the council of complaints for payment of outstanding salaries to its employees”.

“In case of non-compliance by the licensee, the authority or, as the case may be, the Council of Complaints shall write to the division or department of the federal government or as the case may be, the provincial government to which stands allocated the business in this behalf to stop release of TV or radio commercials to the licensee till the payment of pending salaries to its employees”. It said: “a license of broadcast media shall be valid for a period of twenty years and distribution service license shall be valid for a period not exceeding ten-year subject to payment of annual fee, including late pa5rment fee if any as may be prescribed from time to time but shall not include annual gross advertisement revenue in any form whatsoever”.

“The license renewal fee shall be fifty percent of applicable fee of last bid price of the same category but shall not include annual gross advertisement revenue in any form whatsoever”.

The information minister also introduced the Press Council of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2023, advocating for the replacement of the term “Government” with the phrase “secretary of the division to which business of the council stands allocated” in section 8, in sub-section (1), in clause (xiii) of the Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance, 2002 (XCVII of 2002).

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi moved the Gas (Theft Control and Recovery) (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which was passed by the house.

Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri moved the Zakat and Ushr (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Apostille Bill, 2023 which were passed by the house.

The house passed a motion to refer the Trade Organization Bill, 2023 to the joint sitting of parliament.

The house passed some bills in such haste as the bills were passed without even being referred to the concerned committee of the house.

In a hard-hitting speech, Ali Wazir, a lawmaker from South Waziristan, alleged that “the incumbent government of Taliban in Afghanistan was installed by Pakistan’s spy agencies”. He questioned: “how Taliban militants who are involved in carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan, were brought here and allowed to settle inside Pakistan and by whom”.

“We must accept the reality. You cannot have double standards; as on the one hand, you allowed the Taliban inside Pakistan and then decided to launch a crackdown against them, which ultimately resulted in harming the people of Pakistan”.

“We must stop waging wars for the sake of a few dollars. All the links of the recent suicide attack in Bajaur go to Afghanistan. Why are you hesitant to talk to the Taliban as you were over the moon when they invaded Afghanistan,” he questioned.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Shahid Khan Aug 03, 2023 02:36pm
A government that would be remembered for years for being so cruel to its people
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