ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has categorically assured All Pakistan Newspaper Society that his government is not contemplating any change in the present legal structure of Pakistan’s print media.
However, any law or amendment, if needed, will be undertaken in consultation with the APNS, CPNE, PFUJ and other stakeholders, the PM told APNS Secretary General Umer Mujib Shami on Monday morning.
Mr Shami called on the premier and apprised him of the profound concern of APNS on the proposed draft Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance (PPMRA).
The meeting follows reports of the PML-N-led federal government resurrecting draconian laws from Ayub dictatorship to gag print media.
‘PPMRA Ordinance 2017’
According to the proposed measures, the government may suspend publication for 16 days, close offices, impose Rs1 million fine and order imprisonment of up to six months.
Instead of issuing them declarations, newspapers will be given publication licences which would be renewed each year. For this the decision of the authority, to be composed of a chairman and 12 members, would be deemed final.
Of the 12 members, four would come from the journalist community while the rest would be nominated by the government.
The authority would nominate a registrar that would exercise powers, including annulment of the declaration of a newspaper, or suspend it. In addition, other stringent measures proposed in the law include inspection of the press and newspaper offices.
The proposed ordinance after its likely approval by the Press Council next week would be presented in parliament and become law after the president’s assent.
Freedom of Expression
Umer Mujib Shami stated that the proposed law reported in a section of press appears a draconian and repressive law which may badly affect the Freedom of Expression in the country attained by the media after prolonged and protracted struggle.
The PM was told that the Ministry of Information has dug out the notorious law promulgated by former military dictator, General Ayub Khan from the dustbin of the history, namely Press and Publications Ordinance 1964. The PPO was replaced by the Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance 2002 on the strong protest and struggle of media and the democratic forces.
“The proposed law contravenes the provisions of 18th Amendment and will be completely rejected by APNS and other media organizations,” the APNS secretary general informed PM Abbasi while requesting that the proposed law be withdrawn immediately.
The PM assured Mr Shami that “no law inconsistent with Article 19 of the Constitution will be framed by the Government”; and if any law to improve the status of print media will be required, “the Government will ensure meaningful consultation with the stakeholders before promulgating such law.”
He also reiterated the resolve of his government to protect and ensure the Freedom of Press as enshrined by the Constitution of Pakistan.