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September 18, 2019

PTI govt decides to set up special media tribunals

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September 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has decided to establish “special media tribunals” to settle cases of media organisations, workers, owners and citizens, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan announced.

Briefing reporters about the decisions of a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, Awan said the government will soon get a law passed from parliament in that regard.

After the establishment of tribunals, she said, all media-related cases would be transferred to them and they would be bound to decide the cases “within 90 days of receiving complaints”.“The decision to the effect has been taken as part of media rules and regulations the government intends to introduce in Pakistan like the best practices being followed in other democratic countries,” she added.

The Prime Minister’s aide said: “The media’s role is important for any state and as per the Supreme Court’s decision, it is the fourth pillar of the state. Setting up the tribunals will make the media more responsible.”

She said at present, media organisations, owners, workers and civil society take their media-related complaints to the judiciary to get relief. The decision would help the “truth prevail” and ensure “supremacy of law”, in addition to encouraging a “process of self-accountability in the media”, she said.

Awan said the tribunals would hear “specific media complaints” and any organisation or person having any complaint against the media could approach them. The tribunals, she said, would ensure “quick justice” and collective and enforcement measures according to the government’s policy to effectively address media-related complaints based on the mechanism of “present world media norms and ethics”.

The aide said: “The cabinet expressed its concern over the fact that some elements — by taking advantage of freedom of expression — have been levelling baseless allegations against the personal lives of government personalities, including the Prime Minister and federal ministers.”

Prime Minister Khan, she said, was of the opinion that constructive criticism was vital for the development of a society and better governance, but some elements were “using freedom of expression for personal objectives”.

She quoted the Prime Minister as saying those elements were “intentionally spreading baseless rumours to fulfil their nefarious designs” and a “section of media is being used as a tool”. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said it was being done to “create mistrust between the people and the government”.

Later, replying to reporters’ questions, she said all stakeholders would be taken on board regarding the media tribunals, which would work “under the supervision of the superior judiciary”. “The tribunals will be free from government control or influence as government functionaries will also be accountable to them,” she added.

To a query, Awan said the impression of “some deal with a jailed personality” was being given in the wake of some meetings with him. The rumour mill in that regard “should stop as no deal would be done”. Anyone convicted under the accountability laws could come out of jail by returning the looted public money under a plea bargain, she added.

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