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March 29, 2020

Govt to resolve ad pendency on war footing

Top Story

March 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan Saturday said the government would resolve the media (ad) pendency issues on a war footing for which a comprehensive plan of action would be readied shortly.

Speaking here at a consultative session with provincial, AJK and GB information ministers and spokespersons via video link, she also confirmed three journalists from Punjab had tested positive for the coronavirus out of whom two hailed from Lahore and one from Wazirabad.

Dr. Firdous said PID Corona Journalist App had been launched through which journalists would not only be protected, but also, God forbid, if any of them got infected, would be enlisted. “The App will cover all journalists, including Gilgit Baltistan and AJK, and hence at the provincial and federal level, we shall be able to information about journalists or any of their family members infected by the virus,” she added.

She said media owners and media workers had their own issues and a perception was being created that the government had stopped advertisements to the media or pendency was not being cleared and that media owners were not paying salaries to their employees.

Provincial information ministers and spokespersons also laid emphasis on addressing media payment issues on priority and lauded the media role in the fight against the virus.

A massive debate, she noted, was continuing on these issues, whereas majority of these things were based on facts but at the same time, there was some exaggeration too. “At our level, we have to see how much pendency is against which media house at the provincial level, while at the federal level, Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday gave instructions to the advisor on finance and the government has also announced an economic relief package,” she noted.

“And, now we are going to put up a comprehensive plan of action with regard to the media workers as to how and where we can provide relief to them and how the pendency with 100 per cent consensus upon can be addressed. We are heading towards journalist support and protection strategy,” she noted.

The pendency issues, she said, would be addressed on war footing, as non-payment of salaries to the media workers would add to their difficulties. Therefore, she said, the provinces would fulfill their responsibility regarding the pendency while the federation was ready to own this responsibility, she said, adding that the related roadmap from the provinces would be finalized before their next such session so that issues could be addressed.

Dr. Firdous announced that on the pattern of provision of protection kits to doctors, nurses and paramedics, it had been decided to provide protection kits to journalists and media workers, who were engaged in coverage in sensitive places or quarantines.

She noted provincial ministers would be providing these kits and they could be approached for this purpose.

The special assistant also told the consultation session that each journalist or media house or an anchorperson tended to give twist to the decisions taken by the National Coordination Committee, whereas the meeting minutes clearly showed there was no issue on which the forum did not evolve a consensus.

It was also noted that perhaps a perception was given that the Centre and the provinces were having divergent positions on measures relating to the coronavirus and the situation arising out of it and this sort of communication gap gave way to disinformation. Therefore, a decision had been taken to project the NCC decisions through small advertisements and TVCs so that the stakeholders knew about the decisions in newspapers and television channels, enabling the provinces to get the exact picture on decisions and the level of their implementation.

Dr. Firdous emphasised that in the given situation, the nation could not afford confusion and that was why the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had decided to create a Central Fund of Rs50 million for this purpose and as per the direction of Prime Minister, the NCC decisions would be made public to ensuring there would be no doubt about them.

She said it was up to the provinces to what extent and how, the provinces could chip in with regards to this initiative, as on one hand, unified public awareness campaign against the virus would be run while on the other, NCC decisions be projected. She said a twitter account had been created to bust the fake news relating to the crisis. A WhatsApp, namely COVID-19 had been created for pool of information from the Centre and the provinces and to issue clarifications if needed and updates on the virus.

GB Secretary Information Fida Hussain said that the coverage of the Gilgit Baltistan government in relation to the virus should be ensured.

AJK Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas lauded the special assistant for creation of public awareness on the virus along with the provincial ministers and said the political leadership should forge unity to combat this challenge.

Liaquat Shahwani of Balochistan government said details of the needy and poor people were being compiled, who were affected by the situation, arising out of the virus. He said that all should join had to strength the national narrative on the coronavirus.

Ajmal Wazir from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced Rs3,000 for the corona-affected daily wagers and vendors and the provincial government would add Rs2,000 to this amount and KP government had allocated Rs32 billion for this purpose.

Sindh’s Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said whatever decisions and strategy the federal government would thrash out, would be followed and implemented with regards to the media pending payments.

Fayyazul Hasan Chohan, Information Minister Punjab, spoke highly for the media, which was playing a proactive role in the given crisis and added that to resolve the journalists’ issues, the Journalist Support Fund was activated again.