No decision yet on controversial Pakistan media tribunals: top official

According to a senior official, cabinet ministers had inquired about what could be done to compel the media to 'act responsibly.'

Published: 19th September 2019 05:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2019 07:54 PM   |  A+A-

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information, Firdous Ashiq Awan

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan (Photo | Facebook/ @DrFirdousPTI)

By PTI

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has not yet finalised the draft legislation for setting up media tribunals to make journalists "act responsibly," a top aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan assured journalists on Thursday amidst the controversial move.

Following the Pakistan government's recent announcement that it plans to set up media tribunals, journalists, political leaders and rights bodies have criticised the move, Dawn newspaper reported.

While addressing the Parliamentary Reporters Association here on Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said that Cabinet ministers have expressed reservations and told Prime Minister Khan that they were being "mistreated" by the media.

The ministers also inquired about what could be done to compel the media to "act responsibly," she was quoted as saying by the report.

She acknowledged that "consultations" have taken place but the government had not made any final draft for a regulatory mechanism.

"The government wants that that a mechanism be formed that is independent of the government and upholds the principles laid out in the Constitution.

"But we want to do this while sitting with the media, in partnership with them; to determine some process about which direction we want to take this country in," she said.

After the establishment of the tribunals, all media-related cases would be transferred to them, which would be bound to decide on the matter within 90 days of receiving complaints, she was quoted as saying by Geo News on Tuesday.

She said that currently media organisations, owners, workers, and the civil society moved their media-related complaints to the judiciary to get relief.

Awan said the Cabinet expressed concern over the fact that some elements by taking advantage of the freedom of expression were levelling baseless allegations against personal lives of government personalities, including the prime minister and federal ministers.

The decision to establish media tribunals through the passage of a bill in Parliament would help prevail truth and supremacy of law, besides encouraging the process of self-accountability in the media, she said on Tuesday.

But she clarified on Thursday that no decision will be taken without consulting the stakeholders.

"There will be various proposals and drafts that will be presented to you," she said, addressing the media.

"You are the stakeholders. It can never happen that we impose this on you without discussing it with the stakeholders."

The final draft will be presented before the media after the prime minister Khan returns from his overseas engagements, Awan said, referring to his visit to Saudi Arabia and the US to address the UN General Assembly this month.

The prime minister's special assistant noted that some individuals in the media had already started speculating that the tribunal has been formed and the draft is about to be announced.

"Things that are forcefully imposed cannot be sustained," she said.

In her address, Awan also urged the media to act responsibly when it comes to matters of national interests.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Wednesday strongly rejected the government's move to launch media courts.

The PFUJ termed it as another round of suffocating the media and journalists and urged Prime Minister Khan to immediately drop the move.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), while expressing serious concerns on the announcement of media courts, also rejected the proposal, Pakistani media reports said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday said it was "deeply concerned" over the government's move, fearing they would be used to suppress free speech and set curbs on media freedoms.

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