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Senate body asks govt not to approve draft ad policy sans discussion

By Our Correspondent
January 08, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Monday called on the government not to approve the draft policy on media advertisement without discussion and without having been deliberated upon by the committee as well as its members, who had strong reservations thereon.

The committee met under its Chairman Senator Faisal Javed here at the Parliament House andtook up several key matters, including the draft ad policy and alleged media trial of politicians, as raised by ex-interior minister Senator Abdul Rehman Malik. He said ad companies are being excluded from the policy making process.

The chairman and members expressed strong reservations over the absence of the Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain from the meeting, as it was to take up the ad draft policy. However, the forum decided that in the presence of the minister in its next meeting, recommendations would be furnished and till that time, the government should not accord approval to the policy. Senator Faisal said that hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihood was linked to the draft media policy, insisting while drafting it, the committee should have been taken on board. He was of the view that the merger of electronic and print media with regard to ads might not bring about any improvement, as the related mechanism was hitherto not clear.

“Things can’t be run without advertisements and ads are also so important for the media. There is an impression by some that the draft policy will impede growth of the media in terms of regional quota, appointments while already people are being fired,” he noted.

Senator Faisal also wondered how the information ministry could be settling down directly media-related matters with the media houses, including the methodology of increase and decrease in ad rates for print and electronic media.

Senator Malik raised the issue of alleged media trial of politicians despite the clear orders of the Supreme Court that the media could only report but not touch upon sub judice matters. He contended that if anyone’s name was put on ECL, then he was portrayed by the media as if he had been convicted.

“The media may report but not give judgments. It does not take much time to turn a suspect into a convict. There should be no media trail of anyone at all,” he emphasised. According to the SC order, he pointed out, that even no television channel should hold discussions on a JIT report. He wondered if the insulting caricatures and programmes could not be stopped under the law.

He noted there were several inquiries, which led to declaring people innocent. To this, Senator Faisal said that the information ministry was to prepare a draft in this context but even after four months, there was no progress as such. He proposed that the senators might bring a draft bill privately while being mindful of the freedom of expression.

Responding to Senator Malik’s observations, the Secretary Information said that there was a lack of enforcement and added that the ministry was establishing a tribunal, which would help improve the things. Chairman Pemra informed the committee that at the time of JIT report, as many as 26 TV channels were served notice and one show was stopped while six ‘directions’ were also issued.

He added for the last four months, measures for betterment were being taken and in this connection, six ads were also banned.