ISLAMABAD – In order to minimise the influence of federal government on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the President of Pakistan has promulgated an Ordinance minimising Authority’s members and giving representation to Pakistan Broadcasting Association and general public.
The newly-promulgated Ordinance, which may be called the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, was submitted before the Supreme Court on Thursday in Media Commission Case.
The Ordinance is promulgated to substitute the Section 5, the powers of the federal government to issue directives, and Section 6, the appointment of Chairman and members.
According to the Ordinance, the federal government shall issue directives to Authority on ‘Policy Matters.’
Power of the federal government to issue directives – “(1) The federal government may, from time to time, issue directives to the Authority, in writing, on a matter of policy. (2) The directives under sub-section (1) may be issued with regard to the matters relating to Article 19 of the Constitution. (3) If a question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not, the decision of the Federal Government thereon shall be final.” In a previous ordinance, the Authority consisted of a Chairman and 12 members. However in the latest Ordinance the members have been minimised to eight.
The chairman and members of the Authority.—(1) The Authority shall consist of a chairman and eight members. (2) The chairman and members shall be appointed by the federal government and shall be persons who are well-known for their integrity, competence, expertise and experience in the field of media, business, management, finance, economics or law. The chairman and members shall be required to hold at least masters or professional degree or equivalent qualification from an institution recognised by the Higher Education Commission and shall have at least twenty years of experience in the relevant field.
(3) The following shall be the members of the Authority, namely :- (a) a member to be appointed by the Federal Government who shall be the permanent member of the Authority and shall work on full time basis; (b) an officer of BS-22 of the Federal Government; (c) the Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority; (d) a member to be nominated by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association; and (e) four members to be nominated by each Provincial Government from general public out of which not more than two members shall be women to be nominated by the Provincial Government on rotation basis.
(4) The Authority shall have only two ex-officio members as mentioned in clauses (b) and (c) of sub-section (1).
(5) The members shall receive such fee and expenses for each meeting as may be prescribed.
(6) A member, other than an ex-officio member, shall be deemed to have vacated his office if he remains absent for three consecutive meetings of the authority without the leave of the authority.
The copy of the Ordinance states, “AND WHEREAS the Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action.”
The copy of the Ordinance was submitted by Secretary Information Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, which on Thursday took up the case regarding independence of Authority and appointments of the members, the case known as Media Commission Case.
During the course of hearing, secretary information informed the bench that chairman of the Authority could not be appointed as Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had stopped the appointments.
He, however, informed that the ministry will move an application to the Commission for permission to appoint Chairman PEMRA.
Senior journalist Hamid Mir, who was the main petitioner, requested the top court to dispose of the case since the Ordinance had been promulgated in the line with his plea.
Mir believes that the federal government cannot blackout any channel directly after the promulgation of Ordinance.
During the hearing, chief justice also observed that he desired to make state-run PTV an independent channel as well.
The top court has disposed of the case and directed the employees of some private TV channels to appear in Lahore Registry on June 13 for their grievance of outstanding salaries.