Extensive discussions took place concerning the "Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023." Eminent senior journalists representing key electronic media organizations in Pakistan were also in attendance. Senior anchorpersons Hamid Mir, Mohammad Malick, Amir Mateen, Kashif Abbasi and representative from RIUJ voiced their concerns against the bill, contending that the proposed amendments could compromise freedom of expression and media.
Senior journalists raised pertinent questions about the bill, including the appointment of the Chairman of PEMRA, asserting that it should be the prerogative of Parliament, following recommendations from the Media Commission. They emphasized that Article 19 of the Constitution should not be invoked to penalize the media fraternity. Additionally, they stressed the need for a broader consensus and involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the formulation of the bill. They urged alignment of the bill with the recommendations of the Media Commission set up by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting defended the bill's contents, highlighting that it was the result of extensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders. She asserted that the bill's objective is to eliminate restrictive clauses from the 2002 PEMRA Ordinance and to enhance the situation for media workers and organizations. The Minister informed the committee that a joint action committee engaged in comprehensive discussions with stakeholders to craft a bill aimed at positively transforming Pakistan's media landscape. She noted that the bill also introduces measures to hold media organizations accountable for timely payment of workers' salaries. She welcomed the suggestion of Parliamentary oversight in the appointment of Chairman PEMRA.
Senator Fawzia Arshad, chairing the committee, emphasized the importance of this legislation, underscoring its long-term implications. She stressed the need for further deliberations to produce a comprehensive and non-controversial document.
The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting welcomed the proposal that stakeholders dissatisfied with any clause of the proposed bill, due to concerns over media freedom, should provide suggestions and proposed amendments. Committee members unanimously agreed to extend the timeline and invited senior media professionals and organizations to submit amendments, which will be considered in the committee's next meeting scheduled for Monday.
The committee meeting was attended by Senators Irfan Siddiqui, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Kamran Michael, Waqar Mehdi, and Mushtaq Ahmed (Mover). Also present were senior officials from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, senior journalists, and the Chairman of PEMRA.