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No participation of media JAC: Senate body defers consultation on PECA

By Our Correspondent
March 15, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting told the Senate Standing Committee on Information (SSCI) on Monday that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) ordinance has not yet been discussed in the ministry.

To a question from SSCI Chairman Faisal Javed Khan, who presided over its meeting here, the secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting informed the committee that the PECA has not been discussed in the ministry. The panel asked for compilation of speeches of Prime Minister Imran Khan from 2018 to date. The committee deferred the consultation on the PECA due to the non-presence of the Joint Action Committee (JAC).

Senator Faisal maintained that there are certain reservations (of which some are valid) of different media outlets regarding the ordinance and the ministry should listen to their outcry. He asserted that the prime minister is a staunch supporter of freedom of expression and will never restrict media liberty. He called for fruitful consultations on the PECA, adding that if the recommendations of the JAC and the media outlets regarding the PECA are meaningful, they must be considered.

Senator Mola Bux Chandio said that hearing all parties on important issues is a good tradition which needs to stay alive. The committee chairman remarked that fake news must end, underlining the need for building consensus to end the culture of fake news. After initial discussion on the matter, the consultation on the PECA was deferred till the next meeting.

The matter pertaining to non-compilation of the prime minister’s speeches (as was the practice in the past) was also discussed in the meeting. Senator Irfan Siddiqui said that the speeches of the PM were compiled in the past; why the ministry has put an end to this trend.

To this, the committee chairman sought from the ministry the compilation of all the speeches of Prime Minister Imran Khan from 2018 to date. The secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting told the committee that the ministry would request the press section of the Prime Minister Office to provide materials of the speeches and will revert them to the committee.

The ministry secretary briefed the committee on budgetary proposals for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the financial year 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. He told the committee that the current PSDP 2021-2022 consists of total 15 PSDP projects with allocation of Rs 1899.530 million. One project is funded by the Chinese government for which allocation of Rs 504.650 million is available in the current development budget. Out of the 15 projects, 11 are likely to be completed by the end of June 2022. The remaining four projects three of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and one foreign-funded of PTVC, will be carried forward to the next financial year and will be part of next year’s PSDP.

Senator Kamran Murtaza raised the issue of transmitter in Zohb, Balochistan, transfer of class-4 staff from the radio station to other provinces and alleged sale of the radio station land. Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) officials informed the committee that the transmitter in Zohb was installed in 1998 and after 15 years (which is the lifetime of any transmitter) it was turned down in 2014. In 2015, a transmitter of 100 KW was installed in DI Khan which covers the Zohb area too.

On the issue of transfer of Class-4 employees, the officials said the employees have been transferred to nearby stations and not to other provinces. He assured the committee that the land of the radio station was not sold so the allegations regarding selling the land have no footings.

The committee chairman sought details in the next meeting of all the Class-4 staff who were working in the Zohb radio station. The matter was disposed of and now would be taken up in the next Senate sitting.

Senators including Mola Bux Chandio, Anwar Lal Deen, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Irfanul Haque Siddiqui, Naseema Ehsan and senior officials from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting attended the meeting while Senator Kamran Murtaza showed up as mover.