ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Information Ms Sherry Rehman moved a bill to revoke amendments in the Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance 2002 (PNNABRO) on the first day of the National Assembly session on Monday. Amendments in the PNNABRO were introduced by the previous regime that initiated a clampdown on the media, political forces and the civil society. The PNNABRO amendments targeted the print media, imposing unjustified restrictions on the press related to the publication of certain material.
The Federal Information Minister said that revoking the amendments in PNNABRO was a part of the pledge made by the Prime Minister in his first speech where he promised to undo all curbs placed on the media by the decade long dictatorial rule.
She said: “Today’s Bill follows the repeal of the last regime’s amendments in the PEMRA Ordinance which was the first legislative agenda of our government. We are committed to revoking all draconian measures taken during the nine years of an authoritarian rule.”
Explaining the old amendments Ms Rehman said that the clauses in the PNNABRO Ordinance were meant to stifle the press by imposing censorship under the ever convenient pretext of ‘sovereignty, integrity and security of Pakistan’. “The media was already following self regulatory orders when the PNNABRO amendments were unjustifiably slapped on them.
She said that the key amendment empowers District Coordination Officers to suspend the declaration of newspapers violating the set of clauses that were aimed at censoring the content of the media. This is unacceptable on two counts. Firstly, executive cannot be given discretionary powers to shut down media outlets without any solid justification. Secondly, the print media was never consulted while drawing the set of rules guiding their content. “The biggest flaw with these amendments is that they came from a non representative structure. They therefore neither reflected the will of the people nor did they promote their interest”, she added.
Ms. Rehman said that the government is revoking all five amendments made in the PNNABRO Ordinance. The Information Minister said: “We are removing the broad censorship measures that sought to curb freedom of expression on the excuse of protecting national interest. These restrictions gave the authorities free hand to harass the print media every time the regime got negative coverage. Journalists were arrested and media houses were threatened to be closed down if they did not follow the draconian rules that were promulgated without taking the parliament into confidence.”
Ms Rehman said that revoking last regime’s amendments in PNNABRO not only signifies the government’s resolve to keep its commitment to the public, it is also meant to safeguard the interest of the media. “A free media is the most important pillar of democracy and our government believes in facilitating the media in their Endeavour to provide objective and quality information products. At the same time, we expect the media to demonstrate an element of responsibility in their coverage of all issues and provide an impartial and fair analysis of the developments in the country” she maintained.-SANA