ISLAMABAD: Prime minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan on Friday announced that it had been decided that a committee be formed to “overcome challenges” that are being faced by media houses, workers and the industry as a whole.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, the special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on information and broadcasting said that Prime Minister Imran Khan himself will head the committee, while she will act as a coordinator.
She admitted that while international indicators like Moody’s and World Bank showed improvement in the country’s economy, the media sector was still facing financial constraints and blamed elements “who put the country’s economy on a ventilator” for the slump.
“About 85 per cent of media houses’ business depends upon advertisements by the private sector,” Awan said. “When the private sector faced difficulties, it affected media houses as well.”
She said that the prime minister had taken notice of the downsizing in the media industry and he strove to ensure, through “personal communication with owners” of media houses, that people’s jobs remain secure.
“We succeeded in some cases but in others, we could not effectively communicate with the owners of [some] media houses.
“The prime minister has decided that we settle this issue once and for all, and sit together to combat disinformation. People of a certain mindset are harming the national interest [by working] on an international agenda and they want to protect their own interests in the garb of media freedom.
“The prime minister, in order to reach a permanent solution to this problem and to address problems faced by media workers, legitimate issues of media houses and future challenges of this industry, has formed a committee.”
The committee will include the presidents of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and All Pakistan Newspapers Society, chairman of Pakistan Broadcasting Association, an office-bearer of Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (whomever the body nominates), chairman of the parliamentary association of media and other stakeholders.
“Government will become a bridge between media house owners and workers,” Awan said, adding that the committee will settle issues pertaining to money that is owed to media houses by advertisers — which includes pending dues by the government — and unpaid salaries of media workers as well as any other issues related to their jobs.
She expressed hope that by the year 2020, issues faced by the media industry will be resolved and said: “You know that a Twenty20 match is always thrilling. We hope that this 20-20 match between the journalist community and government will turn into a friendly match.”
Committee to hear reservations over ‘media restraints’
Awan said that the committee will also summon people who “talk about restrictions on journalists’ freedom” to listen to their concerns “individually”.
Criticising those who “spread poisonous propaganda about Pakistan on social media”, she said that the committee will ask them what they mean by media freedom.
In response to a question, Awan lauded journalists for covering human rights abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir and said that the government “owns and appreciates the media’s role” in this regard.
When asked about an interview of former president Asif Ali Zardari being pulled from air, she said: “You should ask the channel about his interview being stopped. The government has nothing to do with it.”
In July, anchorperson Hamid Mir had said that Zardari’s interview was stopped shortly after it started airing on a private news channel. At the time, Awan had said that the interview was stopped because it violated laws, adding that a suspect in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is not allowed to give an interview.
She was also asked about the involvement of Prime Minister Imran’s nephew in a violent protest held by lawyers on Friday, to which she responded: “He will reap what he sowed and will face repercussions according to the law. That is what Imran Khan has done; he has made the law supreme.”
Punjab police force was criticised for not naming the prime minister’s nephew Hasaan Niazi, who was seen throwing a rock at the police in a CCTV footage that emerged of the protest. Lawyers stormed into Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology emergency unit, damaged hospital equipment, shattered windows of cars and torched a police mobile while protesting over a ‘mocking video’ of a doctor that had gone viral.