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National

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September 21, 2017

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Inquiry finds director responsible for draft law to gag media: minister

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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb revealing the details of a fact finding inquiry into the drafting of an ordinance to put curbs on the print media at a press conference here Tuesday said that Director General of the Internal Publicity Wing of the ministry Nasir Jamal was solely responsible for whatever transpired between him and the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) and the consequent drafting of the said law without the knowledge of the secretary or herself.

The minister said that the Director General intentionally concealed the facts from the high-ups and presided over two meetings on the subject in his office and gave instructions for the preparation of the draft to replace PCP Ordinance, following which three letters were also issued to the Pakistan Press Council.

She said that the PCP chairman in response to the letters sent out from the ministry had informed Nasir Jamal that before initiating any amendments to the law the Council would have to consult its stakeholders which would take some time.

The DG did not even bring that letter into the notice of the secretary or the minister. She said that the willful concealment of facts and an attempt to drive a wedge between the media and the government was extremely regrettable and everybody was deploring this act.

She said that the government did not believe in gagging the media. She said what Nasir Jamal did was an inexcusable act and now a proper inquiry would be held against him under the Government Servants Efficiency and Discipline Rules 1973 to find out why he did and what he did.

Explaining the background of the episode, she said that during a briefing of the Press Council of Pakistan, when she assumed the charge of the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, she had expressed the opinion that with a view to facilitating the media and resolving their difficulties concerning their dealings with the ministry, the possibility of merging the office of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Press Registrar and Press Council of Pakistan might be considered to make it a one-window operation for the media.

The minister said that one of the departments in its working paper had also corroborated what she had said exactly. No formal orders were issued for drafting of any legislation or ordinance to replace the PCP Ordinance 2002, she added.

The minister while quashing some reports suggesting that the government really wanted to promulgate the new law but following the reaction of the media had abandoned the idea, explained that for the enactment of any new law there was a proper procedure which had to be adopted with all the relevant developments recorded on the files and approval of the competent authority sought before seeking the input and approval of the Ministry of Law.

Nothing of the sort happened in this case, she added. She urged the media to avoid speculative reporting which in the end proved embarrassing for the reporter himself and the institution that he represented.

Marriyum said that she in her capacity as Minister for Information was a representative of the media in the ministry wedded to the cause of freedom of expression. Her responsibility was also to improve government-press relations which were only possible through measures designed to strengthen freedom of expression, she added.

The minister said that the democratic government of PML-N, which had all along stood for independence of media, could not think of any curbs on the media. Reiterating the media-friendly credentials of the government, she reminded that with a view to facilitating the media and ensuring transparency the government had refined the Access to Information Bill and had it passed from the Senate which was now in the National Assembly.

The government, she said, was also working on a draft legislation for the welfare of the journalists and ensuring a safe working environment for them, in consultation with all the stakeholders, besides taking steps for the institution of a wage award for the media persons. All these steps, she asserted, were aimed at facilitating the media and upholding the freedom of expression.

Responding to a question regarding results of NA-120, she congratulated the people on the victory, adding that the people voted for Nawaz Sharif, who pulled the country out of darkness, checked the scourge of terrorism in its tracks, initiated health and education programmes and gifted the nation a mega-project like CPEC.

The people rejected those who during the last four years denigrated the state institutions, she added. She said that Nawaz Sharif once again had emerged triumphant. The minister said that Kulsoom Nawaz had stood against a dictator and the people of constituency voted for her in recognition of her leadership qualities. Marriyum quashed the rumours about catapulting Kulsoom as Prime Minister or making her the head of the party.

She said that Kulsoom Nawaz would return to the country after her treatment. Replying another question, the minister said that the statements given by the prime minister and the COAS should be evaluated in their proper context. There had been a drastic decrease in the incidents of terrorism which had come down to 160 in 2017 as compared to 2600 in 2013, she added.

She said that in consonance with the vision of the former prime minister the security forces and other law enforcing agencies had rendered unparalleled sacrifices in the fight against terrorism which deserved unqualified accolades of the nation. Marriyum observed that asking them to do more was unfair.

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