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May 16, 2018

Senate body meeting: Marriyum defends airtime for Nawaz, his daughter on state-run TV


May 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The newly elected Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting had a stormy meeting here Tuesday with an exchange of arguments and counter-arguments between its chairman Senator Faisal Javed and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb.

The main reason of stormy proceedings of the committee was the coverage being given by the state-owned Pakistan Television to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Marriyum Aurangzeb tried to defend state television allocation of airtime to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, saying that doing so was a discretionary right conferred upon her by the federal cabinet. Her defence of state-run TV programming policy came after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Javed, who is chairman of the committee, commented that the state network was spending millions of rupees on hours-long speeches of a "disqualified" person and his daughter. He questioned the logic behind this practice of the state-run TV, being run with the tax-payers money.

"Only one party, one person and his daughter get coverage on state-run TV," Faisal Javed said. "Three-hour-long speeches of a disqualified person and his daughter are broadcast live. Millions of rupees are being spent on such transmissions," he emphasised and quipped the only thing lacking was airing of dramas titled 'mujhey kyun nikala (why was I forced out)' on national TV. He continued, “Perhaps, they should show Nawaz Sharif on national TV Home and Sports channels as well. State-run TV cannot be allowed to run in the manner of a dictatorship". He asked the Ministry of Information to explain its news programming and sought a report on its coverage.

The minister asserted by saying, "the Cabinet has given me the power to make policy. It is my discretionary right. "Nawaz Sharif is a national leader; he has been the prime minister three times. If he and Maryam Nawaz speak for even five hours, we will broadcast it live."

However, the committee chairman maintained that his committee would make sure that all political parties would get due coverage on state-run TV channels and that they would not be used to defend a particular political party. He insisted that all the provinces should be properly projected on the state-owned television.

JI’s Senator Mushtaq Ahmad said that national TV should not be the government’s mouthpiece and there must be balance in its coverage.

PML-N Senator Dr Ghous Bakhsh Niazi defended the state-run TV coverage and said that it was imperative of the state-run TV to project the government’s performance before the world.

Senator Khushbakhat Shujaat complained that the state institutions would be ruined, when appointments would be made on the basis of political affiliations and not on merit.

The minister said that national TV was a national institution and it gave representation to all during its talk shows. She added a report ran on state-run TV was never repudiated. She also clarified that Punjab government’s reports were run on national TV on the request of chief minister Punjab and if other provinces, contacted, they would also be ‘obliged’.

She pointed out that for the last eleven months, live coverage of the Senate and the National Assembly was being shown on the state television and that a new channel was being established, which would give live coverage of the House standing committees.

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