The Senate Standing Committee on Information has expressed reservations over continuous absence of Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry from the committee meetings and rejected the draft National Advertisement Policy presented to the committee.
The committee met here in the Parliament House and was presided over by its Chairman Senator Faisal Javed. The committee discussed the new National Advertisement Policy of the government. The committee chairman said that major flaw in the policy is that it has merged the electronic and print media. "Many things will not move ahead without government advertisement and it is essential for media houses too," Senator Javed said.
The committee witnessed several complaints by the senators over the policy, as they questioned how the government will determine the advertisement rates for media and how it will deal with the production houses without involving advertising agencies.
Not only the members but also the chairman of the committee who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) expressed concern over the continuous absence of Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary from the committee meetings.
Senator Javed said, "We are to discuss the important agenda item - National Advertisement Policy - as a large number of jobs are linked with this policy while the members have many queries regarding this draft policy too."
The committee decided to turn down the draft National Advertisement Policy and directed the officials of Information Ministry to present a new one.
"At the same time we expect that the government will not approve any advertisement policy without taking the Senate Information Committee into confidence," the committee chairman said.
The committee was informed that the government had released advertisements worth Rs 86 billion to print and electronic media in 2016-17 and Rs 81.6 billion in 2017-18.
The complaints were registered by Senator Muhammad Ali Saif and Senator Usman Kakar regarding, what they claimed, derogatory remarks about Pakhtuns in some advertisements. However, the committee decided that the information minister will respond to the concerns expressed by the senators over the alleged derogatory remarks in the Senate.
Senator Rehman Malik too had lodged a complaint to the committee that the apex court has given clear directives not to discuss the developments of cases under litigation or the JIT report at media.
"It is not only the matter related to the opposition parties, but my concern also relates to making the mockery of all the politicians," Senator Rehman Malik said, adding, "It has become a routine mater for media especially electronic media."
He demanded that there should be regulatory measures to stop media from ridiculing politicians and that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should do something about it.
Senator Malik also recalled that the committee had earlier directed the PEMRA to submit its legal report regarding certain programmes but it has not been received by the committee yet.
"There is a difference between the accused and the convict but judgements are given by media and the persons mostly the politicians are defamed even before the inquiries are finalised," he added. The chairman of the committee said that the concerns were forwarded to the information minister. "But any legal solution to this concern has not been prepared by the information minister despite the promises he made some four months back," Senator Javed pointed out, adding, "I suggest that the members prepare a private member bill in this regard but it would be better if freedom of press is also considered in the bill."