ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, which met at the Parliament House today under the Chairmanship of Senator Liaquat Ali Bangulzai, has recommended that the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) be made an autonomous organization in order to ensure survival of this vital national entity under changed circumstances. The Committee also wanted that the existing Board of Directors (BoD) be made more representatives having representation from all the federating units which should try to run and manage it along professional lines.
The Committee also asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to make sure that merit and merit alone must be the guiding principle in all appointments made in the news agency. ‘Considerations of provincial quota etc are important, however, merit must not be sacrificed to accommodate those lacking in competence and credibility. The organization really has to strive for achieving a fine balance between merit and provincial/regional representation in the premier national news agency’, it observed.
The meeting also constituted a Sub-Committee to be headed by Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel including Senators S. M. Zafar, Dr. Javaid Laghari and Mir Muhammad Naseer Mengal as members. The Sub-Committee is mandated to review all recruitments made in APP recently and to see whether the incumbents fulfill the necessary requirements and the requirements of provincial quota were observed or not. The Sub-Committee will meet after the Budget and submit its report to the main Committee after the Budget Session.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chairman of the Committee observed that recent developments in technology have converted the world into a global village and geographical boundaries have virtually obliterated. In such an atmosphere, there is a need for an organization which can effectively project and promote national interests on the media front and to resist the onslaught being carried out by news agencies and electronic channels particularly to our norms and values. He assured that the Senate Body would do whatever it can to enhance the professional capabilities of the APP and to help it overcome the current financial crunch.
Senators Haji Muhammad Adeel and Javaid Laghari called upon the APP to give representation on its Board to relevant people from Journalism and Mass Communication Departments from Quetta and Peshawar universities. Senator S. M. Zafar highlighted the fact that there is so much competition on the information highway that no country could afford to lag behind in this vital area.
Therefore, there is a need that only professionally sound persons should manage organizations like APP. Mr. Zafar also called for opening a Bureau office of APP at Sialkot. He also drew the attention of the Chairman towards the need to have a well maintained photo archive in the APP, which should also act as repository of photographs especially of important national occasions and preserving the same for posterity. The Committee appreciated the Video News Services of the APP.
Senator Muhammad Naseer Mengal stressed the need for introduction of a Balochi / Brahvi Service of the APP to cater for newspapers in these two languages. The Senate Committee took exception to the fact that sometimes advertisements are placed in the newspapers merely for regularizing the employees, who are already working on contract / daily wages basis etc. and called for immediately stopping this practice. Candidates from far flung areas report for tests / interviews only were informed later that these were meant to regularize those already working.
The Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Ms. Sherry Rehman said APP has great potential for improvement. However, presently it is facing severe economic crunch. For hiring and retaining competent people as Reporters / Sub-Editors etc, she said, we have to give them market-based salaries, which at present look difficult due to the financial difficulties. Responding to the request made by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar regarding public service messages, she said, the Ministry is taking up the matter with other channels while the PTV is already doing it. We are trying to convince them at least 10% of the air time should be reserved for such messages.
The meeting was attended, among others, by Senators Haji Muhammad Adeel, Dr. Javaid Laghari, S. M. Zafar, Mrs. Tahira Latif, Mir Muhammad Naseer Mengal, Mrs. Nilofar Bakhtiar and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq besides the Minister for Information Ms. Sherry Rehman, Secretary Information, Muhammad Akram Shaheedi, DG, IP, and MD, APP and senior officials of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.-SANA