ISLAMABAD, Jun 12 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb Monday lauded the journalist community for playing a critical role in protecting democracy from different kinds of threats in the country.
“Nobody can dare to attack democracy if the voice of journalists is powerful and their message is load and clear,” the minister said while addressing a reception organized by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) here at the National Press Club.
The reception was also attended by Federal Secretary for Information and Broadcasting Sohail Ali Khan, Principal Information Officer Mobashir Hassan and a large number of journalists and media workers.
The minister said the health insurance scheme for journalists and media workers was introduced in the Federal Budget 2023-24 in line with the vision of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.
“This step is continuity of the policies of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who also has credit of the constitution of 8th Wage Board after a hiatus of 18 years,” she added.
When PM Shehbaz Sharif was opposition leader in the National Assembly, many journalists visited his chamber complaining about their health problems, she recalled while highlighting directives of the prime minister who soon after coming into the power ordered establishment of a fund for the medical treatment of deserving journalists and media workers.
“This is not a favour to anyone since this is your right and our responsibility,” the minister remarked.
She said owners of media houses could not be absolved of their responsibilities regarding welfare of the journalists and media workers.
Marriyum said the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) had been given representation on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s Council of Complaints and PEMRA Authority so that issues faced by the journalists and media workers were resolved in the earliest possible time.
She said the government had worked out a new strategy to ensure timely clearance of media workers’ dues by the media houses which would get advertisement payments from the government only on clearing outstanding payments of their workers.
The minister said health insurance for journalists and media workers was part of the vision of the coalition government led by PM Shehbaz Sharif who played a crucial role in that regard.
She said the incumbent government had not tortured any journalist during its tenure, nor issued directives to suspend any television programme or current affairs show. “We have not taken any retaliatory measures against any media professionals,” she added.
On the contrary, she said, during the previous government tenure, the opposition was not allowed to speak and even the doors of Parliament were closed upon its leaders. However, the doors of National Press Club remained open for the then opposition leaders at that time.
She noted that censorship on the media was enforced during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government which enacted laws to suppress media freedom. The PTI chief was given the name of “Media Predator” at the international level.
Marriyum said that the proposed legislation of the PTI regime regarding the Pakistan Media Development Authority was a back law and its sole objective was to silence the voice of dissent.
“The credit of foiling the PTI regime’s plan to introduce PDMA law goes to the unity of media organizations, civil society and political workers,” she added.
She said it was the resistance showed by the then opposition which hampered the PTI government’s move to enact a draconian law for the media and journalists.
“This happens only when the country has a brave leader like Nawaz Sharif who courted his arrest before his workers,” she said while highlighting his era’s development works, particularly launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Nawaz Sharif made the country’s defence impregnable, curbed inflation, created massive job opportunities and rooted out terrorism, she added.
When he was disqualified, she said, not a single pot was broken, nor any ambulance , hospital or mosques was tortured.
He did not give any call either for attack on the GHQ or vandalizing memorials of martyrs, she said while referring to the May 9 tragedy when sensitive installations came under attack following the arrest of the PTI chief.
She said Nawaz Sharif had not disrespected any institution as he was convinced that he did nothing wrong.
Recalling the Army Public School tragedy when terrorists killed innocent children, she said Nawaz Sharif emphasized on enacting a law which could ensure security and safety of the field journalists.
“Nafeesa Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party presented a private bill in the House for safety and security of journalists when I held the portfolio of Information Minister during the previous government tenure of PML-N,” she said while regretting no-progress on the legislation which was put in cold storage during the four years of the PTI.
She said the Security and Safety Bill had been sent to the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Broadcasting that would be enacted soon.
A fund for death claims of the journalists who lost their lives in accidents had also been included in the bill, she added.
“Rs 1 billion for health insurance scheme has been announced and second announcement regarding security and safety legislation will be made soon,” she stressed.
She said a circular regarding Rs 35,000 minimum wage had been sent to ITNE and PEMRA to ensure its implementation.
Marriyum also lauded the role of journalist community for defending democracy and raising voice against censorship during four years under the leadership of Afzal Butt and RIUJ leaders.
She said she would soon visit the Rawalpindi Press Club .
The minister also thanked the Information Secretary, PIO and their team for playing their due role for welfare and protection of journalists.
She said the era of progress and prosperity had been resumed in the country with an end to four years fascist rule of the PTI.
Marriyum called for collective efforts for progress and development of the country.
Earlier upon her arrival at the NPC, she was accorded a warm welcome by the journalists community and media workers.
The minister appreciated the journalists for showing unity and burying differences on the auspicious occasion.
She thanked the office-bearers of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists, RISJA, Media Workers Organization, cameramen, anchors for showing unity.