LAHORE, Mar 05 (APP):Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that country’s media regulatory regime was outmoded and unable to regulate the media and digital media forums and there was need to update the existing laws it in line with the changing times.
Speaking at a workshop ‘Changing Roles, Challenges and Opportunities in Digital Media Age’ by National Press Trust (NPT) at a local hotel here on Saturday, he said the PEMRA law for the media was framed in 2003 while all the social media forums like the facebook, twitter etc. were created in the later years, adding that the PEMRA laws were outmoded to monitor such forums.
The Information minister said the government was faced with the task of equipping the young journalists with right knowledge to use these media platforms and to introduce regulation to ensure responsible journalism. He said it was important to teach the young journalists the difference between reporting and analysis, adding that an analysis may be biased but not reporting.
He said it was heartening that senior journalists have admitted the need of regulation during this workshop, adding that the High Court and the apex court should constitute a three or five member bench and review The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) law.
Reaffirming his respect for the judiciary, Fawad said he believed a full bench of the higher judiciary should decide on the matters pertaining to laws framed by the parliament, adding that a single bench of the court should not set aside laws framed by the cabinet. ‘Policy decision-making has to be the purview of the parliament and the judiciary had nothing to do with it’, he stressed.
He said it was unfortunate that the lower judiciary was least interested in deciding the defamation cases, adding that the cases get so dragged up that the complainants had to approach courts abroad in order to seek relief against the Pakistani media houses. He said such is state our affairs in justice system that the two sitting ministers had to file cases in the courts abroad to press for damages against defamation, adding that the government has been vociferously pleading to the foreigners to believe in our system.
The information minister said the government, on the other side, tried to create an alternate system where decisions should be passed without delay, adding that the government proposed that the Council of Complaint in PEMRA should comprise equal number of nominated members on the recommendation of the parliament and the media alike which would take decisions within six months in case of some complaint. He said unfortunately this law could not be imposed, adding that opposition parties have their vested interests.
On the PECA, he said there is difference between civil defamation and criminal defamation, adding that the claim that there should not be any media law tantamount to promoting an uncivilized society. He said instead of opposing PECA law, safeguards should be framed so that the law is not misused, adding that presence of media representatives in decision-making are the best safeguards.
“Keeping society on the brink of anarchy, creating political instability in country, defaming people out of context and putting people’s honor at stake through irresponsible news is not media freedom but idiocy which should be controlled”, the minister said.
Addressing the young journalists during the workshop, he said digital media is of vital importance in today’s world, adding that it is powerful tool which can bring about vital impacts for societies on the international forums.
He said the Indian digital media forums had nothing to do with the criminal case of Noor Muqaddam in Pakistan but they made hours-long videos to underline that Pakistan was not a safe country for women. Similarly, a renowned Pakistani English daily wrote an editorial on a fake PMDA law which was presented before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva and, resultantly, Pakistan was threatened with lifting of GSP plus status by the European Union.
Fawad said this is how countries are squeezed on the issues of human rights, minority rights, women rights and freedom of expression due to false reporting, adding that this scenario demands for training of journalists what news is fake, propaganda, and exaggerated and genuine.
He said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is arranging training for journalists on digital media in all divisional headquarters and providing all press clubs with latest digital media labs so that the next generation of journalists is better prepared to face all these challenges.
Chairman NPT Munir Ahmed Khan, renowned senior journalists, members of Lahore Press club, trade union bodies and large number of students of journalism attended the workshop.